Well 2016… what can we say? You’ve been a mighty big rollercoaster for many in their own microsystem, but an even bigger rollercoaster on the world stage. So many talented people gone, so much upheaval in world politics, so much unnecessary destruction…
For me, I can’t say it was all bad. 2016 created some momentous learning opportunities, lots of realisations, some heartfelt losses and the understanding of true friendship. The essence of great friendship is what 2016 will mean to me. My friends have been there for me more than any other year this year – through good and bad. I had shared some amazing times with some beautiful people who have made me truly happy. Always there to laugh, sing, cry, hug, confide in and be silly.
I guess my biggest learning curve throughout 2016 was how much I learnt about myself. The more I learnt about myself, the more I accepted myself, therefore my friends accepted me more because I was fighting less with myself.
So what’s in store for Suzy J Brown in 2017?
Well I will kick the year off with the Fresh New Suzy! My new blog ‘Single, Sassy and 40-Something’ – giving us 40-somethings some positive insights into being a better you, by learning from others, appreciating the simple things in life, and letting go of all the angst inside to bring out the light in you. I will interview different women who are inspiring, uplifting and understanding of the varying roles women need to play today to be successful in the various worlds we live.
One piece of food for thought that I would like you to think about is how 2016 and the years prior have moulded this current generation. This YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HK97VG-m3W0 gives us some profound insight into how we do things and how we have impacted social media and the sense of entitlement onto our kids. I plan to make some of the subtle changes it suggests to improve my kid’s lives, because I know my job is to prepare them for the big bad world, and they are getting closer to becoming independent and deep into it.
So, so long 2016, welcome 2017, and I look forward to providing some fabulous ideas and inspiration, warmth and friendly banter into your lives, and hopefully a new novel.
Two weeks ago I was finishing what was a relentless year of extreme work hours, some days starting at 2am and finishing around 6pm to make dinner and do things with my kids, yet still getting text messages till as late as 9.30pm, before setting the alarm again for a 2am, 3am or 4am start. Usually I get a welcome rest around June, but it didn’t happen this year. Two weeks before that, I was saying to myself ‘this will be the last of the big weeks’ only for it to happen the following week, and then again the week after. So by the time Thursday November 19 turned up and was over, I was hoping for that sense of relief, but it didn’t happen, because Monday November 23rd had a handful of appointments to attend.
And you wonder what happened on Friday November 20? Well, it was my birthday, a day I traditionally take off as a work-free day to tend to my own wellbeing and celebration of ‘me’, however this year, I moved house on my birthday… well, sort of. I moved from one of the downstairs apartment to one of the upstairs apartment…. and had a housewarming party that night! Yes – I am a glutton for punishment.
Some of you know that I live in an old Firestation building. It is heritage listed, built in 1924 and is renowned for its sympathetic architecture to the residential streetscape. We were living in the old garage part previously, which, as a garage was essentially one big square partitioned into 4 rooms (3 bedrooms and an open plan living space). Now we are in the old offices, residential quarters, with towering 10ft ceilings, magnificent rooms (my bedroom is 5.5m x 4.2m (18ft x 13.8ft) or 23sqm approx) (most bedrooms are around 10-12sqm), a rustic old fireplace, a balcony that captures the sunsets and storms coming in and some really quirky character, like a meat-safe in the kitchen, high skirting boards, distressed solid timber doors with diffused glass panes and cute cottage style sash windows with the original glass panels in them. And the funny thing is, for me, it felt like home as soon as we moved in. I absolutely love it!
So since we moved in, my world has changed… I can see the sky, the treetops, the clouds, the street activity, so much going on, and it seriously doesn’t bother me hearing the traffic, where in other places, it used to drive me mad. We’re not stuck in the cave with no light that we had downstairs which was starting to drive me a little nuts. My boys and I aren’t on top of each other, and sometimes, I don’t even know if they are home because there are two staircases to exit from (I think we might need to set some courtesy rules), but for now, we’re enjoying our space, our new home and our sense of freedom.
For me, so much so, over the last twelve days, I’ve done things I’ve never done as a single mum. I went to the Paris to Provence French Festival at Como House for a wander around the glorious gardens of this Victorian landmark mansion and enjoyed the fruits and flavours of French cuisine (even bought myself an antique metal pot to plant my herbs in). I’ve gone to a corporate movie night, thanks to one of my clients who wanted to thank their suppliers. I went to a little soiree at a new friend’s house to celebrate her selling her home. I’ve done a ton load of shopping (if anyone knows me, I hate shopping with a vengeance, but for some reason, I have actually been enjoying it, to the point of doing more the next day! Please help my credit card!!). I got my hair done and had a acupressure foot massage (and two other massages, because I can!). I helped collect the materials to make a billy-cart for my boys. I went out to dinner with my gorgeous friends up in Goughs Bay for my belated birthday and enjoyed it alfresco style with the kangaroos watching us. I’ve drunk alcohol every day, I’ve watched movies, including the whole first season of ‘Flesh and Bone.’ I’ve been on beach walks, walks with friends, met some wonderful new people, and tried to write the next riveting chapter of my next book “Calmer Suits Her.”
And today, I went into the city, visited a friend who works at the French shop at the Queen Victoria Market and bought some beautiful delicacies for my Christmas Drinks on Saturday night (as there was a call for another party!). I told her to choose, so she gave me some stunning soft white and blue cheeses, a vintage cheddar, some mini gherkins (I’m sure they have another name), some divine pate, some stuffed figs and some gold wrapped chocolate pears with a healthy dose of liqueur in them. It was so nice seeing the friendly shop owners from their different nationalities, toting their authentic goods, the vibrant bustle of customers wanting to get their favourite cheese or Hungarian salami. The friendships and laughter that have been created over decades in that place was magical to watch… and showed me how sheltered I really have been. After a trip to the market, I took the tram down Elizabeth Street and got off at the Bourke Street Mall, to do some more shopping (shoes this time), and wander down the eclectic cafe strip of Degraves Street and found a cute little ‘Made in Victoria’ shop called Clementines, with a bright orange Vespa out that front, where I bought a charming milk bottle style vase to put on the mantle in my kitchen.
All in all, it’s made me realise how much I’ve been missing out on because I work so hard throughout the year, too busy getting from one place to the next and forgetting about the journey within. Whilst I caught the train into town today, I made a conscious effort not to look at my phone and just enjoy the scenery… and the scenery was people looking down at their phones! lol
Will 2016 be the year that I create time to do things other than work? I hope so… Now that I feel like I have a really city home, as well as my country home, I feel I will most likely entertain more, therefore more trips to the Victoria Market on a Saturday morning! But time will tell.
But for now, I’ve needed these last two weeks to enjoy myself again, enjoy the moment, because in the end, I deserve it… as we all do.
We are lucky! The start of a new year is always a good time to re-evaluate what is actually GOOD in your life. There are many ups and downs, and most of us focus on the ‘downs’ in life, complaining our days away, but not really appreciating the positives that life brings us.
The stand outs for me in these first few days in the year have been that I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with my cousin and his family in New Zealand. We then stayed in a beautiful 5-star golf resort staying in a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment with each room enjoying king size beds and there was a gas fireplace we actually put on, as it was a wintery day, and the next morning, the clouds dissipated and we saw the mountains with stunning caps of fresh snow. I enjoyed a relaxing massage (which they forgot to charge me – please don’t tell them!) and we drove down to a gorgeous little French historic town called Akaroa where I found a jade carved turtle to add to my turtle collection (if you knew how much I searched high and low to find a turtle in something that was unique to New Zealand, and that I found it in the last place we went to, you too would think I was lucky!). We were also one of the ‘lucky’ tourists who didn’t have a car accident on all the windy roads New Zealand presented to us (apparently most the car accidents in New Zealand are vehicles driven by tourists). When we arrived back to Melbourne, I was expecting to pay $60 extra for my parking at the hotel we stayed the first night of our holiday, but I was just handed my keys and was thanked for our stay.
I also came home to my blessed dog Dexter who has had his own adventures traveling down the coast and getting to play on a farm with other animals and meeting new people. He hasn’t left my side all day today. He has been lovingly cared for, and I couldn’t ask for more. I also had people housesit my apartment whilst I was away, and whilst I did have a couple of complaints about how it was returned to me, it was generally well looked after. And I came home to some work… much needed after about 6 weeks off.
But I guess the most luckiest that I am, is that whilst some people struggle with their lives as being a single mother, I don’t. I keep a fairly clean home, I have two sons who help usually without too much complaining, I have two sons who shower me with love and hugs and always ask if I’m ok or how I slept the night before. I have a great little business that keeps the wolves away, I drive a nice car (well, much better than those rentals in New Zealand I was driving!) and I live comfortably without having to rely on the inconsistent child support that I’m legally supposed to get. Yes, there are struggles at some times, but as I’ve said many a time, I do not consider motherhood ‘hard work’ – it is a joy to see my boys grow up to be the kind considerate young men they are, and the reward is that they appreciated that I’m always there.
The thing is, whilst there are always something to complain about or wish we had, our focus should always be on what is actually working for us, and who knows, maybe those things you complain about won’t be there anymore and the things you wish for are.
I went to a house yesterday and met a lovely lady who was selling the family home. Her parents bought the land in 1948 for 100 pounds, built the house in 1952 borrowing an extra 100 pounds, then Dad died in 1954 leaving mum to raise 4 children under six years old on her own. Her mother is now 94, and it took her till she was 89 years old to pay off her mortgage at a rate of $40 a month, living on a pension all her life. The house was immaculately maintained because it was built to perfection at the time, and it was on a deep block. The agent is expecting for it to be sold between $1 million and $1.2 million. Her mother is now going into aged-care, and the family are selling the home to pay for the remainder of her years.
Now, my moral dilemma… Whilst the mother spent her early years raising her four children on her own, how is it fair, that she was able to remain a pensioner once her children were adults and have a mortgage for 58 years (not the standard 25-30 years) without earning a dollar in the traditional sense of holding down a job, and then walk away with an asset that makes her a millionaire? Yes, raising children is a job in itself, but not once they are self-sufficient. Yes, she may have been out of the workforce too long to have the skills to re-enter the workforce, but we still have training for those in her position. And yes, she may have lived a very frugal life without travel, cafe lattes, expensive cars and stylish clothes, but still, does it make it right that the Australian tax payers have essentially paid the way for this woman to be a millionaire?
As you all know, I am a single mother who strives to do the right thing by myself, my children and my country. I worked every single day I could, with my children coming to work with me at the ages of 5 days old and 3 days old respectively. I was even working the afternoon after I gave birth to my second son. I work 40-80 hour weeks, depending on my work load, and raise my children on my own. Yet, at almost 42 years old, I make good money, but I don’t have a million dollars. Yes my priorities in life are totally different – I choose to live my life, not sit at home watching television and counting pennies, and that comes at a financial cost, but I work hard to play hard, and teach my children about the moral responsibility of working and providing for the greater good of society (paying taxes!).
Does this 94 year old deserve to walk out of this life holding a million dollar cheque in her hand? Some might think I’m being a little harsh and that she deserves to live her last years in the best comfort available, and the sale of her home, that she and her husband built together, is the reward of that. But as a single working mum, it’s people like this that damages the reputation of other single mums doing the right thing by society.
As a previously married woman, who grew up hating her maiden name with a passion because no one knew how to spell it, nor did they know how to say it, I was happy to change my name when I married. And now, even though I have been divorced for four years, separated for six, I kept my married name for a couple of reasons – 1) because I had established my business with my married name, and 2) the hardships that can be caused through travelling internationally with children when your surnames are different can be too much of a challenge. So in saying that, the plan is to create a new identity once my children are adults, as my married name doesn’t belong to me.
People change their names for many reasons – ease of spelling, not wanting to be associated with a nationality or religion, sheer hate for their family and not wanting to be associated with them, to make a name for themselves, etc. And I’m sure ancestry.com is constantly overwhelmed with confusion when a name change is recorded that doesn’t coincide with a marriage or divorce.
But what stroke me today was how people come up with what they want to call themselves. Is it an old family name, or a derivative of? Is it something that has nothing related to their background? Is it a name that reflects someone they imagine they are? Is it something that is so far removed but still part of the family – like a great aunt’s, middle name, reduced to be more Anglosized? And yes, I write under a pseudonym which is the name I used when I was the most confident as a teen (Suzy), my middle initial (J) and a family name from way back (Brown), because to me, that’s what I want to see in myself. There’s still a family attachment to it, but it’s not identifiably me. I don’t know if I will change my name by de-pol in a few years time to by legally Suzy J Brown, or if I will invent something else, but I think knowing that I have the freedom to change my name to be whatever I want it to be is quite liberating. It’s freeing, it’s giving you a fresh start, no matter how old you are. Born with a name like Susan, I went through many derivatives of it over the years – Susie, Suzie, Suzy, Sue, Sooz, SuSu, and when I was yelled at, Susan. I struggled with what suited me, and what sounded happy, positive, and felt like me. And in someways, I still do… The thing is, I warm to people who call me ‘Suzy’ – even if I don’t use it in my everyday life, only for my writing. Those who call me ‘Suzy’ are everyone from old family friends, to clients, and even some new friends. To me, it has a sweetness and a sense of affection to it. It’s warm and welcoming.
As single mums, we do struggle with so many things in life, especially if we have lack of support from family. The key is to find your happy place within your soul, and if changing your identity frees you up to being the person you see yourself as, then all the better for you. People from your past will always know who you are, people in your future will only know the new you. Changing your name can make you move forward and dissolve the past, never to be spoken about again, or create new light. Either way, if life has had more downs than ups, I think a name change, when the time is right or you choose to move to a completely new place in the world, is a positive way to bring out the best in you.
Over the years, I’ve been to many a funeral, and it’s interesting to see how families, or how those who have died have left instructions, on how they want to be celebrated on this earth.
I guess I find it sad when little is done to commemorate someone’s life, when there is no funeral at all, just a ritual burning at the crematorium and whatever is left over with family and/or friends is handed a plastic urn or worse, a wooden box, to either keep as a keepsake, or use to scatter their ashes at the deceased most treasured place. To me, it’s like how could someone live a life that has not touched anyone significantly, or make a contribution to society that they are valued? Yes, VALUED. Even if that society is their children, or work colleagues, it’s heartbreaking to know that each and every person in this world isn’t valued enough to have a proper send-off.
And then you get the mighty send-offs because the person who is no longer made a generous contribution to this world and they will be sadly missed by many. Everyone, from their extended family, friends of family, friends of friends who’ve been affected by the loss, work colleagues and anyone who actually wants to support those who are lost without this person in this world go to these types of funerals because those people mean so much, because they did so much good for so many. With these, you get the inevitable wake to celebrate the deceased life, and for long lost friends to catch up.
And then you get the funerals in-between, where the deceased survived many of their friends and family and could be one of the last to leave this world with only 20-30 friends and family paying their respects. There are funeral notices for all those who look up the daily papers to find out who has gone and to gather a bigger crowed. To me, at least they are respected enough to encourage people to send their respects and celebrate their life.
I have no idea what type of funeral I would have, but I would be honoured to have all those whose lives I have touched to be there, or send their respects. I think I would come back to haunt my kids if they sent me off to the crematorium without a party to celebrate who I was, as I believe everyone deserves that.
But I guess what every funeral does, is it gives us perspective. That life is short and we need to value the people in our lives, we need to make the most of every opportunity, we need to take risks and have no regrets. We only have one life, and it’s up to us to make the most of it, no one can do it for us. We need to love with all our heart, care for those who need looking after, and take a minute to let people know that they aren’t forgotten.
Most people who know me, know that I have quite a generous heart and soul, but some days, you get into being a little bit ‘thrifty’, for the sake of either others or the environment. So there are three things that have been part of my day to make it ‘thrifty.’
1. I am the social co-ordinator of my son’s hockey team, and we are having a pizza night tonight. I have managed to get 1/2 a pizza + a can of drink for each person participating for $5, however there will be a fairly hefty profit from that, which will go to the club.
2. Instead of buying some new winter boots, I need to get two pairs fixed… one needs to be resoled and one has a missing leather button from its side. I spend a good hour trying to find a replacement leather button, but had to settle for a plastic do-it-yourself button where I’m hoping the shoe-repairer has a piece of leather to shape over it to make them look the same. Hopefully it can be done.
3. I’ve been eBaying a few of the boys outgrown clothes that they have rarely worn, just to get rid of the pile of clothes that are too good to give away. If they don’t go, my son’s tutoring service is organising to send some clothes and supplies over to the earthquake victims of Nepal, so they will go there if not sold by Sunday.
So that’s my thriftiness for the day. Sometimes thriftiness is a necessity in life, sometimes it’s just good to know that you can live on a tight budget if you need to, and it makes you feel good when you can, or if you get a bargain!
Well… today I walked the dog, made my son breakfast, then his lunch for school, had a shower, got ready for work, organised some items to post from Ebay, looked at emails, went to the post office, went to work, came home to write some copy, sat down with the tail end of Ellen while having lunch, wrote an email, went back on the road for work, sat in the car working, went to another appointment, came home, said hello to one son and dog, the other son wasn’t home yet, called him, he was just around the corner, wrote the last copy, did the dishes that had been sitting in the sink for a couple of days (oh no!), put the recycling in the recycling bin, told my oldest son to get ready for hockey training, told the other one to do his homework, picked up the broken peg that the dog had chewed, took son to hockey training, talked to the secretary about the pizza night organised for Friday night, was given the raffle tickets to hand out to other team member’s parents, came home, made dinner, ate dinner, helped both sons with homework, cleaned the dog poo off the bathmat after dog takes dump and eldest son didn’t take dog out for long enough walk, back to homework, and now it’s 9.45pm…
Sound domesticated? Just another day in the life of a single mum…