Monthly Archives: September 2012

An ode to “family” – in whatever form they may take

Just this past week I have managed to touch base with some of my “family” from back in my Phnom Penh days & it brought a rushing wave of emotion.

So I simply had to put pen to paper.

My soul is literally crying out a huge thank to Karl – my beautiful friend, my brother all but genetically, who came all this way & spent time with me walking the beach, talking, reminiscing; feeding my soul with more sustenance than it’s had in a while.

Thank you Karl for being all that you are. My instant connection.

You remember all that I was before what I am now & I have loved remembering my many layers with you.

And best of all – you celebrated all that I am now & I loved sharing that with you – sharing what I am so proud of & so grateful for.

You swiftly brought back to me the rest of “us”; those who became my entire world –  Randal, Bruns, Swifty, Delon, Josh, Patrick  & more …– thank you to you all, for letting me be my messy self whilst there, for accepting all my mistakes & for holding my hand the whole way through it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am forever grateful.

And of course, thank you to the magnificent women  – Brie, Els, Rach, Deb, Bobbie – for being strong women who taught me so much about the kind of independence & strength I wanted to grow within me. For your wealth of life experience, sharing your journey & your ridiculous fun.

This is a purely selfish post – one I need to express for myself about a moment in time & a group of people, as without these great beings I would not have made it through many a time, many a night & many a precarious moment.

Without these great beings I would not be who I am right here & now – even if you don’t know it.

I was broken when I arrived in Phnom Penh & one way or another, you all helped fix me.

So here is a brief moment in time – a memory to all of us – there is something for everyone:

To nights for two, dancing in a fishing village while lightning strikes across the horizon;

To crossing your fingers & hoping you make it to Sihanoukville in one piece;

To boat rides at sunset to Snowy’s;

To walking into The Shop where “everyone knows your name”;

To padlocks for door keys & mace in handbags;

To walking in monsoon sewage;

To taking our own beer to brunch;

To riding in Russians with Knackers;

To river cruises for birthdays;

To nights in far away places simply through rooftop dining at Tamarind;

To the plank to Pontoon during monsoon season;

To bus rides & “movies” during a trip to Siem Riep;

To tapas & balcony cigarettes at Pacharan;

To sunset cruises ending halfway to Vietnam;

To happy hour at FCC;

To kitting out the apartment at the markets;

To watching speechless Bruno’s magnificent creations grow step by step in the boat basement;

To Elsewhere!!!

To Karl’s sexy skills behind the bar;

To getting flooded in… & then getting flooded out during monsoon;

To sneaking in for a cheeky bottle of red in the spa at Himawari;

To champagne & fresh spring rolls from the markets, bow of the boat;

To the call to prayer at 5am;

To moto rides charged according to “fat rates”;

To fresh seafood on couches on the beach;

To the boys & their “girls”;

To nights that turned into days that turned into nights again.

To all of you – may we cherish each other forever.

Rach xx

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Cocktail Philanthropists

In writing this post, I am about to admit something I may regret. And one day, the time will come where I will be aspiring to create greater credibility for myself & this post will no doubt come back to bite me.

So perhaps for now, it’s best we keep this between us.

Here goes. Since moving to the Sates – I have developed a mild fascination & a fairly severe addiction to reality t.v. In particular – The Real Housewives.

My overall favorite thus far is The Real Housewives of New York City. They scare the bejesus out of me whilst simultaneously seducing me.

The most recent episode was golden.

Some background: the women had gone on a holiday together in St Barths & there was tension for Africa. And let’s be honest – this post is born from the fact that, I’m watching at home, jealous as hell, as these women loll about this magnificent property overlooking topaz coloured waters, drinking cocktails by the pool….(And admittedly I find both Carole & Heather to be magic – super smart women, grounded, experienced in life & just plain cool. I would like an opportunity to spend some time soaking up the sun and what they’ve learnt in life thus far, as I feel they’ve so much I could learn from. The other women though…. not so much).

All, it seems are unhappy: Some girls are unhappy as they feel the trip has been hijacked by husbands; some are unhappy because they resent the debauchery of this “girls trip”; some are unhappy as Ramona is just so annoying – as for that matter are Sonja & Aviva; some are unhappy because there is simply so much conflict & it’s simply all a bit ridiculous.

Trust me, it really was fabulous watching.

And also highly cringe worthy.

What struck me as particularly interesting though & worth writing about – was one glorious name-calling moment in which Aviva calls Sonja & Ramona “white trash”.

It was very dramatic of course but what’s more interesting is their apparent ignorance of the term (scripted or not I have no idea) which of course led them to “Google It”.

Upon finding a reasonable explanation along the lines of “White trash is an American English pejorative term referring to poor white people in the United States, especially in the rural South, suggesting lower social class and degraded living standards (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_trash ), their first response of course was “well I’m not poor, I’ve never been poor“.

And in that instant I experienced one of those moments where their sheer ignorance, lack of humility, grace, & distance these people have from reality themselves actually made my stomach turn.

I am embarrassed for them (& obviously that would not be the first time…although notably I am still happy to continue being highly entertained.).

Admittedly I am blatantly judging here as I do not know the inner workings & this could simply all be scripted & they may be role-playing. I don’t know.

But what I do know is that regardless, they put this image of the own value set & behavioural practices out there for all to see, so as far as I am concerned it’s Game On.

As If to further reinforce my assessment of their moral being, in the following individual interviews that break up all the juicy action, Sonja makes some comment about her extremely generous & selfless (my adjectives) philanthropic activities which of course in her mind negate such a label as “white trash”.

And I think this is what hit home for me – Sonja & some of her peers are what I call  “Cocktail Philanthropists“. She gets her newest Caroline Herrera number on, dons a few jewels along with her Jimmy Choo heels & fur coat; makes her way to the Museum of Fine Arts where she nestles herself amongst her clones, talking about the latest opera, who’s screwing who & how the market is doing & then leaves when tired having written out a check.

Gosh I’m so selfless, she thinks as she leaves.

And oh my goodness aren’t we grateful for such significant philanthropic work. If it wasn’t for women like her, well, we wouldn’t have opera would we?

And then where would we be?

Ok, so my tone at this point is rather scathing if you’d not picked up & I have to pull back here as actually many cocktail philanthropists work for great causes, raise a ton of money & get in there, doing the hard yards of organising these things, glamming up only at the last minute.

However I cringe at the attitudes behind it all; it is completely lacking reality.

Would these women go & live in a developing nation where there is limited access to clean water, where sewage removal is marginal, trash abounds & grime clings to your every pore?

Would they sit down to commit their time & energies on the ground helping the kids who are ill & have no money to get well, living in slums collecting trash to contribute to the familial $500 annual income; with women who have been virtually sold into prostitution; with parents watching their children slowly die of malnutrition & disease or alternatively growing up with impaired cognitive development thanks to malnutrition or worse, who drug their children to create docile beings for begging.

Does cocktail philanthropy reach into the trenches or is it not really the right spot for your Jimmy Choo shoes to land I wonder?

I have to be honest & say you do not see me in the trenches helping those who are resource deprived; live amongst insecurity with human rights abuse, few advocates & lack of access to the basics of health, education & social welfare.  My input currently is not something to write home about.

I am not however, stating on television how wonderful I am for all my philanthropic work; I am not looking to feel better about myself by writing yet another check nor showing my freshly injected face at another event sipping champagne whilst discussing how devastating the economy has been on my portfolio.

When I think of the term “white trash” I know that it has specific connotations – we all know that. However in this instance I wanted to draw attention more to the point that these women have a tendency to display “white trash” with a new meaning, an added dimension: they lack humility, appreciation; a sense of grace & poise. Dignity in essence, is absent. They appear to make little or no attempt to reflect on themselves, to practice their cocktail philanthropy in any meaningful manner beyond the cocktail party itself, to reach beyond the confines of their small bubble world that is predominantly white & wealthy.

I see “white trash”, in this instance, as a term appropriate to particular women (& men) who embody a value set & a behavior set that saddens me & demonstrates to me why there is such disparity in the world.

And of course I do not refer to all women in this world they participate in… In this particular instance, Carole & Heather for example, reflect much more a sense of respect & emotional intellect it would be nice to see all humanity embrace.

I am absolutely confident they are far from alone.

And more to the point – am I equally as shallow for my lack of involvement? Do my past actions & future plans count? Does my limited reading of international issues & awareness set me apart?

Probably not. In all honesty, I am not necessarily any higher above these women on the moral ladder.

Hopefully though, by putting these points out into the ether, I bring attention to our behaviors – as without reflection; without questioning; without constantly assessing who we are, what we represent, what we want to live our life by, what we want to embody, what we want to demonstrate to our children; without the ability to step out of the bubble, we act only to widen the gap.

We only create further division of the haves & have-nots.

Bet you didn’t expect that from one episode of The Real Housewives of New York City.

Categories: Social Commentary | 1 Comment

Feeling our way through…

I have to preface this piece with some words of joy – a quote in fact that I have in their albums:

“The decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body” (Elizabeth Stone)…

I note this, as in essence, this is how I always feel. My children give my huge joy – huge. My heart physically swells thinking of them & I never could have anticipated that feeling before having the boys. But with  great joy, they also bring great vulnerability.

They have consumed my heart & as such I will do whatever I can, to give them all the opportunities I can & also – all the skills, tools & strengths I can help them develop; to take on their own journeys as independent, competent people ready to make their life all they wish it to be.

And when I say I love my kids, I mean not only that – but I also actually like my kids. I mean it.

Ethan is mature, wise, kind, gentle, sensitive & nurturing. He is contemplative & earnest yet full of confidence & courage… he is incredibly generous & it is the most delightful attribute to watch emerge. Ethan is beginning to show the most remarkable talents – ones I could never have anticipated & I have great faith in him. I am incredibly excited about his journey – I really think he may surprise us.

Mylo is our quirky kid – he is full of personality & it’s immediately obvious. People are drawn to Mylo in ways I’ve not encountered before. His light & laughter exude a compelling energy….. As he runs down the street in his underwear, a plastic drill tucked in one side, a sword in the other, mask on & his arm in the air shouting “I am Buuuuuzz Lightyear”, you know this kid has spunk & all sorts of adventures ahead.

Both boys are fantastic little people. They are loving toward us, each other & bring so much fun into our lives, I do not have the words to even go there in all honesty.

However, despite this & despite seeing many great qualities as they grow, that I like to think we played a role in helping to develop… I have weeks like this past one where I can feel nothing but exhaustion; nothing but emotional fragility & consider myself little other than a failure as a parent.

How do I take myself from such joyous moments to such punitive ones?

Well, moments I guess – they are but moments & that is why the joyous ones are equally as important to acknowledge as the challenging ones. What draws me to this more however is that despite seeing all the good & all the joy, I can still have weeks I feel as though am getting it all so wrong.

About 6 months ago, our youngest son, Mylo (approaching 3 now) was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). “SPD refers to the theory that children [and grown ups] have different neurological thresholds in regards to sensory input. A neurological threshold is the amount of information it takes to charge the neurons in the brain so that they can respond to said input. Depending on where these thresholds are at, ability to cope & function on a daily basis can be significantly impacted. And furthermore, these responses can change according to environment or stress – illness, fatigue, hunger & so son” (Karen Murphy OT, Kidzpoint, Sausalito, CA.)

When Mylo was around 1, a number of developmental delays which I had been persistent in following up since he was 6 weeks old, led us to eventually get an MRI which demonstrated evidence of flattening of the medulla – the likely result of a suspected inutero stroke which led to the umbrella diagnosis of cerebral palsy.

Since then, we’ve been very fortunate to receive a ton of support both in New Zealand & now in the States which have made this diagnosis almost irrelevant in terms of daily life.  Mylo is virtually on par with his peers in every way possible.

Relevant to this diagnosis or not, of late, our biggest focus has been his SPD. Although a recent diagnosis, looking back evidence of SPD has been present in various forms all along his journey. For Mylo, like many children, SPD displays itself in different forms – from sensory sensitivity & sensation avoidance to low threshold & low registration. This is evidenced in a variety of ways – for example he finds socks painful on his feet; pants can also cause distress; water temperature can be an irritant; noise can be overwhelming; he is inseparable from his blanky & he self soothes constantly by sucking his fingers. Some of these are very normal toddler behaviours & some are more extreme.

Not every kid with a security blanket has SPD.

Essentially Mylo cannot self regulate under stress the way some other children do naturally, without even recognising it.

The reason I am sharing something I consider very personal is simply because I needed to share my struggles… In part I am aware how embarrassing it is to acknowledge these struggles as – fact is – Mylo is so mild SPD is barely noticeable most days & we’ve hit it so young, by comparison to many, I have little to complain about.

Despite this knowledge, I still find myself struggling & continually disappointed by my own lack of performance.

On a daily basis, we have learnt to work around some points of conflict – Mylo never has to wear socks for instance & instead I wash his shoes – often. Everyone is happier. I have learnt to use a very quiet voice when I can see things winding up; to engage in gross motor play during sensory seeking bouts; to provide a quiet space – for us a pop-up tent- where he can shelter when things are overwhelming.

Day-to-day this is all easy.

When Mylo gets sick however or is over & beyond the normal tiredness of a toddler, I suddenly find we are all pushed to our limits & I am once again berating my poor parenting skills.

During these episodes, which can last a day or a week, Ethan is often forced into compromising more than he should to keep the peace. He also bears the brunt of Mylo’s need to squeeze, lash out or gain input from a hug – Ethan is often his “go-to”. Ethan also does not get as much attention as he deserves, as when lost within himself, Mylo is all-consuming.

There are times when Mylo cannot get out of the state he has worked himself into as his body desperately tries to “realign” & watching him struggle in a tantrum or meltdown is heartbreaking & also incredibly challenging. Just when you think you may have solved that moment’s issue, another crops up & so the meltdown continues – for hours. Hours. There are moments here & there where he can stop & re-group – even now, ask for help. But these last only a few minutes – maybe 10 or 20 at absolute most if we’re lucky – & then we start again.

When this has been the case for two hours before we even leave the house for school, tears, anger & feelings of utter inadequacy are often rotating between both myself & the boys.

And this – for which we are extremely grateful, is a very mild case of SPD.

Coming out the other side of one of this week, I can see in hindsight how hard it actually was. How tired I was by the weekend, how even reading this & remembering the week brings tears. Not just because I feel like I failed to meet Mylo’s needs but because it was so much for Mylo. And equally important, it was so much for Ethan.

I cannot yet  make things equal or “fair” for Ethan during these weeks & I cannot remain calm & in control for Mylo the entire time.

As my understanding grows & thus our tool box expands, I admit, these periods becomes less daunting. However I still do not feel any more competent that I am parenting well in these moments NOR any less sad & frustrated that Mylo must endure this & that I cannot fix it for him.

When good, he seems unharmed by the whole experience of a bad week. Yet he is only 3 (almost); his world is still so small, who knows what damage I have done that may crop up in the coming years.

Should I be saving now for the therapy bill?

I am aware this post is rather negative; it lacks the attempted humour of my other posts; there is not so much of a silver lining. I apologise for that in the sense that I wish not to put people off reading my posts.

However offering up raw honesty in regards to my self doubts on parenting; sharing with others our struggles – despite their minor scale – is my means of reaching out to others struggling too. Hoping I am not alone.

This blog is my simple wish to share our journey through my writing. But my journey without the realities, without the honesty – makes the term “sharing” seem fairly hollow.

I hope from this, that all others struggling with either SPD in whatever form it takes or simply struggling with toddlers & all their glorious quirks (!) will take heart that you are not alone. Share in the respite that we all have days we laugh & feel we’re getting it right.

And we all have days we don’t.

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