words by nerissa

…observations, thoughts and questions

Archive for the month “August, 2013”

At the risk of offending you…

Yesterday I sat down to write my blogkeep calm and think before you speak

There was something I wanted to write about. This issue had been popping up in various forums all week. It was something that was frustrating me, making me feel angry — and I was feeling quite fired up about it.

There was quite a bit I wanted to say. Some of it was likely to be controversial.

But the trouble was, there was too much I wanted to say — so I edited it.

There was too much that was controversial — so I cut it out.

I ran the risk of offending people — so I toned it down.

And then, there wasn’t much left at all.

It left me wondering how often do we do this? Feel like we have something important to say but water it down because we don’t want to offend people. Feel like people won’t be interested in our point of view so we shorten our conversation.

On the other hand, sometimes we do share what we feel is important but do so while we are still feeling emotional about it.

When this happens, our arguments are not well formed, we usually offend people, (hey, sometimes we don’t care if we offend people), and we lose credibility. I think I was at risk of this yesterday, despite the fact that I strongly believed in what I was writing.

It seems to me that there is a delicate balance of being ‘true to yourself’ and what you believe in, and respecting where others are at.

Sometimes it is easy to forget that we were once where they were — thinking the same things, believing the same things — and we become impatient because we have ‘moved on’ and they have not.

We feel we have the right to ‘preach’ to them that our way of thinking is right and theirs is wrong.

We project our morals, values and beliefs on them, and get frustrated when they don’t measure up to our expectations.

Instead, we should be meeting them where they are. We should understand that their path is not ours. We should remember that they have a right to look at things with different eyes.

That doesn’t mean that we should not speak up about issues we feel strongly about.

It simply means we need to think a little more before we speak.

So, the issue that I wanted to write about has been put on the shelf for a while. I still feel very strongly about it and I will write about it one day.

But for now, the moral of the story is ‘think a little before we speak’ (or write, in my case)!



Why some numbers are important

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARecently I have been thinking about numbers. Unusual for someone like me who is more interested in words.

But just like words, numbers are everywhere. Some are important and some are not.

I’ve been thinking about how some numbers have more importance than others, depending upon the phase of life we are in.

I know that when my kids were babies, I really focused on the number of feeds they had and the number of hours sleep I could get each night!

However, my kids are no longer babies and I am not as young as I used to be. The numbers that are becoming more important as I get older, (and which should be more important to all of us as we age) are those related to my health.

After all, it doesn’t really matter how many pairs of shoes I have, if I’ve had my feet amputated due to diabetes complications.

And if my cholesterol levels are through the roof and my heart is in such poor health I could drop dead any moment, then no amount of money in the bank will make me feel better.

Over the last few years, I have specialised in writing ‘health and well-being’ articles. Over the years I have researched and written plenty of content relating to important issues such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cholesterol. I must admit, that at the time, while I thought they were important topics, they didn’t really apply to me all that much.

I think I just had my head in the sand.

However, now I am in my early 40s, I am suddenly in a ‘higher risk’ category for many of these nasty diseases. I’m also more aware of the importance of screening tests (as uncomfortable, inconvenient and embarrassing as they are), particularly when my family health history is factored into the equation.

Put simply, I’ve pulled my head out of the sand, accepted that I am getting older, and am now doing all I can to prevent poor health in the future.

So when it comes to numbers, these are the kinds that I have been thinking about:

Blood pressure — High blood pressure can lead to serious problems such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure or kidney disease.  Doesn’t sound very pleasant.

Cholesterol levels — While we need cholesterol for our bodies to function, too much of the wrong kind (LDL cholesterol) can lead to heart disease or stroke. Not a nice thing to live with.

Blood glucose levels — Having raised blood glucose levels may be an indication that you are on track to develop diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition that affects many parts of the body — many more than most people realise.

Calcium levels — Low calcium levels are a risk factor for osteoporosis. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to have to deal with poor bone health and multiple fractures as I age.

Waist circumference — Probably something most of us don’t pay attention to unless we are trying to zip up our jeans! Men should have a waist measurement of less than 94cm while women should have a waist measurement of less than 80 cm. What’s your waist circumference?

‘What about the scales?’, I hear you ask.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the scales are not the most important number in my life anymore. They were for a long time. However, they really only tell a small part of my story. They don’t tell me how much fat or muscle I have, they don’t congratulate me on cutting out processed foods and increasing my water intake, they don’t indicate how much energy I have.

If you haven’t been on the scales in years, then yes, you need to know what you weigh. However, you shouldn’t obsess over a number and let that number dictate how you feel about yourself. If you are proactive about your health and making a concerted effort to lose fat, gain lean muscle and improve your metabolism in order to beat the ageing process, then the scales are over-rated.

And of course, along with all the ‘numbers’, there are a range of health checks that you really just need to have as you get older — most of them not pleasant, but far more preferable than dealing with conditions such as breast cancer, bowel cancer, blindness and false teeth.

Whatever your age, or phase of life you are in, you cannot escape the ageing process.

So I figure, if I can’t stop the ageing process, then I’m going to make sure I slow it down as much as possible and live a happy, healthy fulfilling life for as long as possible.

Who says that it’s all downhill from 40? After all, age is just a number.

The perfect home

children are making memores

These renovation shows have a lot to answer for.

While they are promoted as ‘family entertainment’, my experience is that they are more a form of frustration and torture.

Let’s make it clear — I’m not talking about the process of knocking down walls, decisions on tiles, or colour schemes, or what size couch to put in the living room. To me, that seems to be the easy bit!

I’m not even referring to the unrealistic deadlines, building mishaps and backstabbing that goes on.

Oh no. I’m referring to the finished product. These beautifully finished, furnished homes that are fit for the pages of a magazine. And how that causes many of us to feel, when we compare our house to theirs.

Sure it’s nice to see how they have decorated their lounge room. I mean, it’s a novel idea, limiting the décor to an expensive couch, enormous rug and some designer drapes. Oh, and don’t forget the ‘quirky’ finishing touches when it comes to lighting and wall art. But where is the wine-stained carpet patch?

As for the colour co-ordinated, neat-as-a-pin furnished kids rooms with plenty of storage and a neatly made bed, go right ahead and rub that in our faces. What happened to the lego-covered floor that you have to navigate through in the middle of the night? And where are the dirty socks?


Who has a home like that?

I don’t know about you, but my experience of the ‘average Australian family home’ is a far cry from what is flashed on our TV screens each night.

Looking at my lounge room right now, we have an assortment of items that would never grace the pages of a home decorating magazine. Along with the usual suspects (couches, book cases, TV, etc.), we have a mismatched bean-bag that no longer fits in my son’s bedroom. It is bright red, while the rest of the colour scheme is green and cream. Then there is my daughter’s music stand, a large box of Barbies, with a plethora of plastic arms and legs sticking out of it that resemble an echidna (like a hedgehog for you non-Australian readers). Beside the Barbie box is a range of Barbie cars, a dollhouse, and a princess castle. Underneath one of the couches is a large collection of lego that really needs to be stored in my son’s room. We also have a guitar shoved in the corner that no one plays anymore. Various DVDs ranging from (yep, you guessed it) Barbie and Disney Princess movies, through to Wreck it Ralph and Top Gear, are strewn across the couch. The crowning glory is a little grey-that-used-to-be-pink rabbit, with no ears and no stuffing left, called “Flippy”, who is propped up next to the DVDs.

That’s just my lounge room. Don’t even ask me about my daughter’s bedroom. The bookcase and bedside table is covered in trinkets and things that have ‘special meaning’. To my eyes, old lolly wrappers and torn bits of paper are really fit for the bin. But what would I know? In all honesty, a mini-skip is pretty much required for her room.

Some days I live in fear of people ‘dropping in’ and needing to use the bathroom. Who knows if the kids have flushed the toilet or not. Not to mention the toothpaste that is smeared all around the bathroom sink and sometimes on the floor.


I could spend all day picking up, putting away and cleaning my house. Just to keep it looking presentable. But in as little as 30 minutes, the two little whirlwinds who are my children can have it looking like a tip again. Sometimes I think, “What’s the point?”.

Some days it can be quite depressing.

While the idea of renovating and starting with a ‘blank canvas’ (like they do on TV) sounds exciting and glamorous, we don’t really have the time, money or energy to commit to that. No doubt that blank canvas will be filled with basketballs, tennis racquets, an abundance of art and craft supplies, and more Barbies, before too long anyway.

Last week, I was feeling particularly disheartened by the seemingly endless mess and untidiness. So I made a cup of coffee, and indulged in a fantasy. I imagined the house as I wanted it. Everything in its place, no mess, no huge amount of ironing needing to be done. Just neat and tidy and perfect.

I imagined walking from room to room, admiring the very perfectness of it all.

But something was missing.

My children weren’t there.

That’s when I realised that the ‘perfect home’ that I was after probably wouldn’t happen until they had left home — and taken all their mess and chaos with them. That made me feel sad.

And then another realisation — that while they are the source of untidiness and mess (and sometimes frustration), they are two of the most important accessories to my home.

All of a sudden, I didn’t really want the neat and tidy house if it meant they weren’t there. The perfectly ordered house that I was walking through in my imagination was just that — an empty, orderly house. Not a home. There was no laughter, no cuddles, no pens and paper littered across the dining table. There were no little people bringing me drawings and letters that they had written. They were gone.

It dawned on me then, that perhaps I already have the perfect home. Sure, there are crumbs on, around and under the table after most meals, and it seems like I am never up-to-date with the ironing. School bags are dumped in the family room and wet towels are not always hung up.

However, what we have created here is a home where people live and love and create, and chill out. My children have their own space (be it messy) where they feel safe and accepted and are allowed to be kids. They have their toys and games and electronic devices. They have two parents who love them and who provide for all their needs. They have a place where they can create memories. Most importantly, they don’t care what our house looks like.

So for a while at least, I will try to remember that a home is more important than the perfect-looking house. While dirty tissues under the bed are slightly annoying at times, it is not really worth getting upset about.

Our house will never feature on the pages of a magazine but I hope that it exhibits signs of life, that it can be a safe-haven for our family and a place where people can come, and feel at ease.

Just phone first, so I can make sure the toilet is clean!

‘Love them in your heart’ — the art of friendship

Life is better with friends

How many Facebook friends do you have? Do you even know? Are you even on Facebook?

Now I’ll ask you a different question. How many REAL friends do you have? I’m tipping the answer to that question is significantly smaller than the number of Facebook friends you have.

Friendship initially seems like such an easy, simple, pleasant concept. People are either your friends, or they’re not.

However, recently in our house, we have been having discussions with our kids about what REAL friends are, and it’s proving to be quite an important topic.

Some of the concepts we have discussed include:

  • Real friends look after you
  • Real friends can be honest with you, even if it means they might hurt your feelings
  • Real friends try not to hurt your feelings when they are being honest with you
  • Real friends want the best for you
  • Real friends, can be jealous of you, even if they try really hard not to be
  • Real friends speak kindly, not rudely
  • Real friends can say things rudely without meaning to
  • Real friends can be good friends without having to play with you, see you and talk to you ALL the time
  • Real friends can like different things to you
  • Real friends try to be friendly all the time, even if they don’t want to spend time with you at that moment
  • Real friends make you feel good about who you are
  • Real friends understand when you don’t want to do the same things as them
  • Real friends take turns (e.g. let each other share the decision of what they are going to play, etc.)
  • Real friends stick up for you when others are being mean (or at least try to)
  • Real friends are there when you need them NO MATTER what.

I’m sure all of you, having navigated the friendship pitfalls of childhood and adolescence, have a reasonable idea on what friendship is. After all, hindsight is a great teacher.

I mean, it is now very obvious that certain people who were my ‘friends’ at primary school, only seemed to be extra friendly leading up to their birthdays. Hmmm. Not true friends.

And those people who always seemed to have a jealous or cutting remark when I achieved something, were not REAL friends. Real friends may have felt jealousy (after all we are all human), but would never have cut me down in that way.

There was also a girl, who was extremely friendly when our parents were around, but at any other given moment, was a nasty piece of work. Definitely not a true friend!

However teaching your own kids about friendship is a different matter entirely.

During these discussions with my kids, many questions about friends have been asked.

  • Why do kids say mean things?
  • Why doesn’t so-and-so like me?
  • How many best friends do you have (meaning me)?
  • When do you know you have a best friend?
  • How do you get a best friend?
  • What is better — having one best friend or lots of good friends?
  • Do you have to have a best friend?
  • How can you and so-and-so be friends, if you don’t see each other a lot?

While I do my best to answer them, an answer always seems to lead into another question.

However, I have concluded that we can’t really teach kids about friendship. Nor can we create friendships for them. Sure, we can help facilitate the friend-making process by organising play-dates, parties and sleepovers, but it is really up to the individual children whether they choose to be friends or not, and how close that friendship is going to be.

Rather than teaching, I think our role is showing our kids what friendship can be.

For example:

  • Some people are your friends for life, no matter where they live, what they do, or how often you see them
  • Some people are your friends simply because you share a common interest, sport or hobby
  • Some people are easier to talk to about certain things than other people. This doesn’t necessarily make them better or worse friends, just different
  • Some friendships last for a short-time, until life circumstances come along to change that (i.e. moving away, going to different schools, or simply growing apart)
  • Some friendships are forged quickly and others grow and change more slowly
  • Some friends are easier to be around than others
  • You may ask some friends for help but not others
  • You can consider some people closer friends than others
  • Sometimes family members can be your friends
  • Sometimes friends can do the wrong things, but if they are truly sorry, (or ‘love us in their heart’, as my daughter puts it), we can forgive them and still be friends.

While there are no hard and fast rules about friendship, there is one thing I believe to be true —

—     You have to be a good friend to have a good friend.

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