Christmas Cheer

Ross and I were out on a bike ride on Boxing Day when I spotted some writing in dust on the back window of a car — “I HATE XMAS!”

My first thought was that it had been written by a teenager, then I got to thinking that maybe it was an adult.  Someone fed up with the stresses of Christmas.

There is an incredible amount of pressure at this time of the year.  Some of this can be good as it builds the excitement of the season.  But a lot is from our expectations.  For those hosting one of the main meals on the day, there is often fear that there won’t be enough food, or the turkey / ham won’t be cooked properly (or to perceived expectations of others).

Then the house needs to be clean and tidy, the table set right and a hundred other minor details that need to be attended to.

I worked on Christmas Eve, and when I arrived at the carpark and where there are usually two or three cars, that morning it was almost full and I had trouble finding a park.  There was an awful moment when I  thought that my clock was wrong and I was late, but I later learnt that most were there early to get those last minute items — bread, meat and vegetables and booze.  Plus of course the presents to finish off.

Then there are the  people who have no place special to go on Christmas Day and no-one to share it with.  Im blessed to be able to have family to share my day with.  We don’t host the big Christmas anymore — a family disagreement put paid to that a few years ago.  But the first year I was amazed at the lack of pressure.  We packed a picnic  and drove to the beach and had a wonderful day — just the two of us.  The next year we invited my son and his family along for our picnic and we did it again this year.

What is so special about it is the post lunch walk along the beach in the shallows —it is  so relaxing.

But I think my favourite part of Christmas is that most people wish each other Merry Christmas  and are generally nice to one another.  And most of them mean it.

So despite the massive amounts of negative news we see and read, there are still a lot of thoughtfulness and caring in the world around us.

So Seasons Greetings to all and may the coming year bring joy.





There are times when we know that we need to take time out, to step away from the busyness of our lives and just relax.

Knowing that and acting on it can be two entirely different things.  And we often end up wishing rather than doing anything about it.

I’ve  looked at pictures of destinations I’d love to visit, or drooled over a brochure on an especially desired holiday or cruise. Dreaming of being there, but then reality always steps in and I look at my bank account and know that it’s just not possible right now.

Still you could visit the library and stock up on books then turn off your phone, hide the car, disconnect the doorbell and hibernate in your own home for a while.  True.

Although that isn’t quite the same as actually getting away from the regular everyday stuff we are surrounded and bombarded with.

We’ve talked about taking time out and using our time-share to disappear for a week .  Now that we don’t have the same demands that as when we were running a business, fighting to survive and ensure that our employees did too.  Yet we still get bogged down in mundane life chores and things that we need to escape from once in a while.

So I cleared my diary as best I could, booked us a week away — and it was not too far either.  I packed some food, clothes and necessities; visited the library and stocked up on those books I’d been thinking about reading one day.  Rummaged through the DVD collection and found some I hadn’t even watched;  packed the car, picked up some groceries and headed off after organising the cat’s care for the week.

Now we didn’t go very far from home, but once we got there it could have been anywhere in the world.  The pool was just down the steps and around the corner, along with the very enticing (and relaxing) spa.

We slept late, read in bed, watched DVD’s and swam daily.  Really relaxed. Took short drives and enjoyed coffees and the scenery.  Did some bike riding, walked barefoot in the sand and generally unwound from our personal daily grind.pexels-photo-319928.jpeg

We enjoyed each others company whilst putting up with small inconveniences of not having everything we are used to having and generally revelled in our time out.


We came back on Friday ready to get on with life again  but this time with a difference.   We now have some priorities and the main one of those is to actually take time out on a regular basis to look after ourselves.  It takes time to get out of the habit of caring for others before yourself.  We’ve done that as parents and then as business owners and now we don’t have that anymore.  We’ll always be parents, but our children don’t have the need for us they once did — and that’s great.

It’s taken a couple of years to lose the habits associated with running a business — the expectations and the hundred and one other things that go with it.   Now is the time for us, being ever mindful of the need to care for ourselves now, and to nurture much more than we’ve done in the past.

So —the internal batteries are recharged and I’m ready to take on my life again.

Bring it on!

Surface stuff

A lot of our lives are really about surface stuff.  We chat away but  generally they are minor  conversations, skimming the surface and never getting too involved.

I work one day a week in retail,and see many people in that time.  Over the course of the day I have a lot of  conversations  but they are usually focused on the weather.  Often by the end of the day I am heartily sick of hearing about how cold, windy, wet, hot, humid etc it is.  So I play along and mention the number of times I’ve turned the heater or cooler on or off.  Smiling and agreeing when I’m advised not to go outside.

Just occasionally I have an in-depth discussion about current news, and sometimes there is an even more personal sharing — but rarely.

So what is it about our society that has us avoid participating in a more deeper way?

I recall during my childhood growing up in a rural farming community and the nearest neighbour was a few miles away — where everyone knew what was happening to the rest of the community.  Hard not to when the telephone was a party-line and anyone could eavesdrop.  But it was more than that — people cared about each other in a much more personal way than they do today.  When incidents and events occurred, then mum would start baking and we would go visiting bearing gifts of food.  Then there was always a shoulder to lean or cry on and there was no suggestion of weakness.  Just a knowing, that if the situation was reversed you’d be on the receiving end of that neighbourly caring too.

When my children were small, we moved to a suburb of Melbourne and not long after a new house was built next door.  I was on good terms with my other neighbour and those across the road, so I prepared to do what I’d grown up with.  I took the three children and knocked on the door.  When the lady answered the door, I introduced us all and welcomed her to the neighbourhood.

Now past experience would have her invite us in, or even make some joke about mess and just moving in but I got nothing.  She didn’t want to know me — didn’t even open the door fully.  So we left.

A few weeks later my four year old went missing so I ran to my friendly neighbours for help.  One got in the car straight away and started searching the streets.  My new next door neighbour was in his driveway washing his car and I called out to ask if he’d seen a little boy, but he didn’t even look at me when he said no.

I was crushed.  My friendly neighbour found my boy, read him the riot act and brought him home.

But how sad it is that we can’t show we care without being thought of as nosy or prying.

Strangely or not, I don’t believe the suicide rate was anywhere near as high as it is today. So perhaps that had something to do with the sense of community we had back then.  Yes, I believe there are pockets of that still surviving today, but very few.

If we could just show a little more caring when we talk to people, then perhaps we might notice if someone is not really coping.  We may see that a person needs a shoulder to either lean or cry on, or just a good listening ear.

One of the highlights of my week is my coffee morning with the ‘girls’.  We chat about whats happening in our lives, but we also share our disappointments and make ourselves available to be of help in any way whenever needed.

Our society has us all rushing to keep appointments, make deadlines but not make time for our neighbours.  often we don’t even know their names.

Ross also goes to a mens coffee group weekly, but most people need to make appointments to meet for coffee and a chat.

So, if we as a community took a smidgen more time to ask a friend how they are, really mean it and be prepared to truly listen then just maybe we would notice a declining mental state.   We might even start to slow the suicide rate down.

People power at its best.


Quite a big word.  The  Concise English Dictionary says that to be responsible means to be able to discriminate between right and wrong; to be able to act according to the laws; to be respectable; trustworthy; and responsibility is the state of being responsible, as for a person trust etc, etc.

It is a word that is often bandied around, and generally without much thought about meanings. But most of us understand about being responsible.

I have a fifteen year old grandson who stays overnight once a week, mainly to get his internet fix as there isn’t much available on the farm where he lives.

We get him up for school, feed him his breakfast and see that he makes the bus on time.  So that means setting the alarm to get him up, then putting the porridge on in the Thermi and sometimes tag-teaming it with Ross so I can go back to bed.

Last week I dutifully set the alarm as I went to bed, but didn’t have a very good sleep.  In fact I spent quite a few of the wee hours reading.  So when I finally slept, it was very deeply and then the alarm went off.  Groaning and berating myself for being so stupid to leave the alarm set, I rolled over and turned it off then went back to sleep – until five to ten!

I woke and lay there for a few moments and then looked at the clock.  Sh…t!!!  – it all came back to me in a rush.  I remembered turning the alarm off thinking I’d set it by mistake but it was my responsibility to get up, wake up the lad and get him set for the day — his last day of school as it turns out.  He was to go on a fun run and I’d messed it all up.

I felt terrible.  So I was mentally beating myself up for around an hour until I really stopped and thought about it.  Why was I the only one of the three charged with the ‘responsibility’ of getting him off to school?  Surely I wasn’t the sole keeper of the alarm? Ross has an alarm, the almost-sixteen year old certainly has an alarm on the phone that I’m sure is well within reach of his lanky arm.  So why was I the villain of the piece?  Why was it my sole responsibility?   He duly reported to his mother that “Nobody woke me up!”  to which she replied “You have an alarm and are old enough to get yourself up, it’s not anyone else’s responsibility!”

Now whilst that made me feel marginally better, I still feel I let him down.  But I’m working on getting over it.

So in reality, that is just a small thing compared to some of the responsibility we are all charged with on a daily basis.  Something that I believe we all have a responsibility for is caring for others.  Especially when it comes to preventing suicide.

If everyone took a small part in being responsible for suicide prevention, then surely there would be less suicides?  If we all are on the look out for our family and friends welfare, picking up on signs that all is not well in someones world,  then stepping up and asking if they are feeling okay.  Then we could reduce the number of families suffering with the loss of a loved one to suicide.

In ‘Coping With Suicide’ I put a list of what to ask and what not to ask as a guideline, as well as many of the signs of potential suicide.  There are also many websites dedicated to the subject, discussing signs and symptoms at length for anyone to read.  Then where to go to get help.

Also the Salvation Army’s Hope For Life has an online program called QPR – Question, Persuade and Refer, which is easy to do and for only a small fee.

So I believe that we as a society all have a responsibility in regard to suicide prevention.  What are you going to do about it?