Easy Rider, Easy

A friend recently asked me what type of motorbike my husband owns. “A black one,” I replied with the blunt voice of the ‘reluctant pillion.’ I am one of those, ‘hold on firmly with eyes shut tight’, passengers, particularly when we sweep low around the many bends and turns on the country roads we explore. Neither am I inspired by the numb fingers and toes on frosty morning rides, or the fleeting pungent odour of roadkill in my nostrils.  

My husband loves to ride his motorbike. I hear it in his voice when he is out riding and stops to call me to let me know he’s OK. I hear the exuberance; the sheer delight and pleasure riding gives him.  

I notice how conveniently and quickly I can jump in my car, switch on the ignition and be way down the street by the time he has put on all his gear- a ritual of respectful devotion to all that is required to ride, safely and well. He has a routine that works, as I have learned after the frustration of attempting to switch up the order, only to find you cannot put a helmet on while sunnies are still on your face. Gloves always go on last, just in case something on the helmet or gear needs a final tug or tweak. The ritual makes sense.

And so, from time to time, we ride. And yes, honestly, it is a bit scary, but exhilarating all the same!

I do it because he asks me. Not often, as he knows how it is for me. But he asks with hope in his eyes, and I become the ‘reluctant pillion’ praying for a safe, smooth ride with a seriously good coffee and lunch somewhere along the journey to ease my tension.

He has passed that love onto his sons and again my mother’s protective heart kicks in and I wonder. I wonder.

I wonder why, for some of us, riding a motorbike seems such a daunting and frightening experience to be avoided, while for others it is a sheer delight. I can see the love of the risk, the thrill of finding a new ‘great route’ to master, the pushing to the edge to find what bike and rider can accomplish together. I get it. In this area of physical safety, I am not a girl who likes to go to the edge and push to see how fast or far I can go. My husband and sons on the other hand, thrive, come alive and celebrate life every time they ride.

I love that about them and while my heart and mind have to process all the ‘what if’s’ every time they ride, I do appreciate and accept it is something they want, need, must do.

But go to the edge I must, if I am to grow. I wonder what my edge of risk is? What areas of life I am exhilarated, inspired and enlivened by? I know that if I am to grow as a person, learn what I can achieve, I need to go there. Otherwise, life remains safe, predicable, unchangeable, full of possibility and potential, but not fully realised.

Life is like a ten-speed bike. Most of us have gears we never use! Charles M. Schultz

My husband and sons inspire and encourage me to go through all the gears of life and invite me to motorbike ride, mountain bike ride (dodging trees and rocks down a steep hill, and yes I hit the dirt), surf, (such a great feeling to stand up on a board), go to a screamer band rock concert, (got stuck in a mosh pit) and learn to laugh, love and live to the fullest even with a niggle of fear tucked away but not holding me back.

What is your edge? What is the place of risk for you? How do you push through fear and do it anyway?  That edge will be different for everyone of us. We all have them, edges that is. Places that trigger fear, anxiety, uncertainty and confusion. The beauty of shared life is that I don’t have to go there alone. My family, my friends and mentors help me see the edge, feel the fear and do it when I’m ready. Maybe one of our first risks is to trust others with our edges, our places where we want to go to but can’t go alone.

So my question is: Where is your edge and who is standing there with you to help?

Isa 54:2 NIV

“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.God asks us to stretch out our tent pegs, do not hold back. Life is risk.

Photos taken by Glen Yeomans Blog: Zed14.com (Iron Butt Rider Legend)

Happy Families – A game of comparisons

I attended a parenting course many years ago and apart from the mind-numbing rigidity of the rules-based strategy they espoused, I came away with a bit of advice that has stuck with me through the years.

‘If you want happy kids, focus on creating a happy marriage.’

It’s simple and yes, a little simplistic, but there is a gold thread of truth in this statement.

There are no, one-size fits all formulas, or magic tricks to raising happy healthy kids. We instinctively know that, yet strangely we often believe everyone else seems to have found the solution. In parenting, perhaps more than any other role in life, we buy into playing the comparison game to excess. From the moment a baby is born, many parents start the endless measuring, comparing and judging as to whether the child is ahead or behind in achieving those ‘vital’ milestones of development. Parents who play this game aspire for above average, will grudgingly accept ‘normal’ but are often left confused and dismayed with anything less than that. Somehow, a parent’s identity, value and effectiveness is linked to this freshly-hatched little person who, must prove to the world in each stage of life, that we’ve ‘done good’ in raising them.

Some of us feel secret relief when another parent confesses to having a troubled teen. At least ours isn’t that bad! We can feel a niggling shame and guilt when our child is the one in trouble at school most days. We try hard to duck and weave while other parents’ eyes are on us as we rush through the school carpark.

I have experienced all those emotions if I’m to be honest. In our family we ranged from having a child who was the ‘teacher’s pet,’ the ‘good kid,’ to having teachers lining up in the foyer of the school wanting to vent at me as they battled to deal with our ‘class clown, always in detention,’ child. We also had a child who quietly slipped on through in his usual, ‘don’t notice me, I don’t want to make any waves,’ style.

At the time my reactions probably landed somewhere between humiliation and smug satisfaction, but as realists we came to the conclusion that we couldn’t take credit for the ‘teacher’s pet’ and avoid taking responsibility for the one who made the teachers work harder to earn their money every day.

I look back now and know that the bigger issue for us as parents was to ensure our children knew they were loved, accepted, treasured and respected. Why? That’s what my husband and I wanted for us in our relationship too. We sought to honour their unique personalities and ways of seeing and dealing with the world. Our job was not to create clones, not crush, but shape their uniqueness, helping them deal with the situations where they didn’t always find safe landings.

We sought and still do, despite major and minor hiccups, (’cause that’s life) to provide a loving safe space, where we as a couple intentionally invest in our shared relationship. Our focus has been on ‘fighting’ to keep it as healthy as possible in every season and stage of our lives together. For the most part, we’ve been very happily married and we hold no ‘smug satisfaction’ in that at all. One of life’s miracles is ‘to have and to hold until death do us part.’ Sometimes it’s just not possible.

Have our children always been happy? Only they can answer that one. I, one day, want to be brave enough to ask them how our marriage ‘for better or for worse,’ impacted them as they grew.

But what we have learned over time is to quit playing the comparison game and focus on building and maintaining a happy, healthy partnership as a couple. We consider our adult children to be dear friends and companions in life. We enjoy their unique personalities and perspectives, we laugh together, face challenges together, listen to each other and learn from each other. We are happy, together.

James 2:13 ‘Mercy triumphs over judgement.’

Best Life Together

Even before we say ‘I do’ to our ‘perfect match’ we have a question forming in our mind bursting to the surface with the inevitibility of a balloon under water. It can only be supressed for so long.

‘Do I have what it takes to make this work?’

Until we do life together in the raw beauty of ordinary intimacy we have no mirroring reality of our innate vulnerabilities, hidden strengths, crazy making vagaries, (floor-drobe, skid marks in toilet bowls, noisy eating, oh, and toothpaste squeeze), among other virtues and vices.

Often our families of origin have done their best to reward sociable behaviour and monitor with reasonable humour and tolerance the wayward but loveable delinquent or diva.

Social and emotional development in ‘peer central’, also known as ‘school’, shaped or shattered in turn.

Workplaces either reward viability or quietly move you sideways until the door becomes an obvious point of exit due to ‘downsizing’ of course!

We really don’t have a clue how to answer the question. Who could ever know? Where do we honestly intentionally, impartially and intrinsically learn the vital life skills required to make relationships work for the long haul with satisfaction guaranteed?

Many years ago, my then 16 year old son, came to chat about why he’d just broken up with his girl-friend. ‘Mum,’ he said with a sigh, “Im not ready to be emotionally responsible for someone else.”

Where did such ancient wisdom spring from? Old head on young shoulders indeed. But there is a valuable truth here.

When we say ‘I do’, we are agreeing to bring our ‘best self’ to doing life together. We are agreeing to care, support, share, give, receive, be available, vulnerable, real, responsive and so much more. We are committing to be emotionally responsible for ourselves individually and for us as a couple in order to build a mutually satisfying relationship where we thrive individually and together, seeking to create a loving, nurturing and safe environment for a family to flourish.

Instead of the haphazard hope that life has taught you the skills to make a life together work I recommend you invest in a reality check. Discover together the skills needed to last a lifetime.

Sign up today for our ‘Best Life Together Coaching’. Our coaching is designed for each stage of life together. It’s never too late to learn new skills to add some spark to relationships in transition or provide resources to re-ignite relationships in difficulty.

An investment for a lifetime. You and your partner are worth it. Always.

People Travel

People travel to wonder at the height of mountains,         

At the huge waves of the sea,

At the long courses of rivers,

At the circular motion of the stars,

And they pass themselves by without wondering.

St Augustine

I had a student desk in my childhood bedroom with a huge map of the world on its surface. I would spend hours looking at the many exotic and mysterious names of countries near and far wondering what life is like for people who live in such amazing places.

I imagined life would be so different for other people and enjoyed picturing myself visiting tropical islands in the Pacific or treking through deep jungles and sandy deserts in Africa.

The travel bug hits so many of us early in life and while I’ve enjoyed some adventures and explorations in other countries it was while actually living in another country that I came to see how much we all have in common as human beings. I spent time being a mum with other mothers, being a friend, being a co-worker with people from all over the world. I learnt so much about myself along the way as I observed, listened and absorbed the stories of others.

I wonder if the way we westerners tend to ‘do travel’ actually changes us, or do we merely stay in our protective bubble passing through other cultures and places relatively untouched. We rarely stay long enough to form connections, create meaning and be genuinely impacted by the beauty of listening to and learning from other people. Our style of travel is a whirlwind, whistlestop, leap out for the quick photo op and hastily jump back on board for the next highlight.

In effect I believe how we travel is, for the most part, is also how we tend to do life. And that’s what the quote is all about.

It takes an intentional pause, a mindful noticing, an honest and open questioning, a moment of vulnerability to form meaningful connection with others. Only then, do we discover something about ourselves, something of our shared multi-faceted humanity.

Enjoy your travels, local and overseas when the time allows. Take time in the busy jam packed itinerary to occasionally pause and listen for the questions that will come to expand your awareness of yourself and others.

We are all in this together.


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    Transformed Thinking

    Love hopes and believes the best.

    What we listen to affects

    how we connect and relate

    to ourselves and others.

    We listen to lies about our self

    Formed from frail humanity.

    Freedom comes when we

    Forgive, turn, face the Son

    Leaving the past in the past!

    We listen to lies about others;

    Framed pictures of painful betrayals.

    Freedom comes when fears

    Are faced and we take heart

    Finding both hope and healing.

    For we finally understand,

    We all listen to the same lies

    And all will be healed

    By the same truth.

    “Father forgive them,

    They do not know what they do.”

    They live with lies, shaping a reality

    Giving brittle illusions of power,

    Control, protection, connection.

    We reject what we most fear.

    Therefore, we first reject ourselves.

    The pain of deep disconnection

    More than any can bear.

    We become a city divided,

    Defeated, destroyed.

    The gate is unhinged,

    Open and torn

    As we, with broken hearts,

    Hide in a corner dark and small

    Afraid to step forward

    To claim what is ours,

    Our birthright

    As sons and daughters of the King.

    We are never alone, not ever!

    What a comfort He brings

    The great “I am,”

    The Lover of my soul.

    It’s no longer I that live,

    but Christ that lives in me!

    He died to set me free!

    Di Priest ©C-Change 2007

    Crazy good – Family

    Here is my second response to what’s most important in my life and why?

    I still remember my husband’s reaction as he carried our firstborn out of the maternity hospital on a sizzling Sydney summer day. He gently placed our precious cargo in his bassinet in the back of our blue 2 door T-18.  His face was beaming with pride, joy and delight. He could barely contain himself, constantly gazing at our precious son and saying in wonder, “He’s ours. He’s ours and no one can take him away.’

    My husband grew up in a children’s foster home and his words rang of the understanding from his childhood that some families for various difficult or traumatic reasons, had to give up their children to government social workers, who would deem them safer in the care of others. Phil’s parents had become foster carers and gradually added to their homegrown brood of six children, (of which my husband was the eldest and only boy), until eventually their household expanded to an average of sixteen children. Most of them became permanents, while others came for temporary stays, before returning to their families or other carers.

    My family of origin on the other hand, was a more traditional housing commission, mill worker variety of mum, dad and the pigeon pair, with me being the eldest.

    Our childhoods were so vastly different and created an interesting melting pot for us to become a family and raise our three boys.

    Our sons grew in the nourishing soil of being loved deeply by a devoted gentle, playful father who has always delighted in spending quality time with them at every opportunity, paying attention to their interests, sports and hobbies. And now with the uniquely characterful trio in their mid-thirties, we have the pleasure and privilege of calling them sons and dear friends.

    I learned to be a mother over time, mostly through the lense of hindsight as I dared to vulnerably own and learn from my mistakes. Unlike my husband who had been surrounded by babies, toddlers and troubled teens, I had never handled a baby, let alone a new born prior to having my own. I was more the sporty, outdoors type. Always on the move, blissfully self-absorbed is a fair description. I wasn’t and am still not one of those nurturing maternally inclined women who make comforting or celebratory cups of tea to go with their home baked goods, while gushing and gooing over tiny babies.

    I brought my own brand of parenting imprinted from my family of origin with its strengths and weaknesses. But, over time, and not altogether without inner resistance and struggle, I melded more and more with my husband and my offspring who have taught me to be less intense, live lighter, love and laugh more and accept imperfection in myself and those around me.

    This love has expanded in us and through us over time. I’ve learned there is always more love to go around. We have always chosen to love whomever our boys loved and with that in our hearts, our family has grown, blended, strengthened and been changed for the better with each inclusion in our lives. Some have come to stay and some have gone, but our love, affection and life lessons learned from them, has remained.  A wonderful part of that embracing and engaging has resulted in the birth of three delightful granddaughters. And yes, I have rather enjoyed the gushing and the gooing.

    For me, our family has been a safe place to grow up. I’m still growing up. It has been a messy, non-linear, jarring, jolting, joyous journey, of small tentative steps with stumbles, falls and stalls. With equal measure of tenderness and terror entwined in my psyche. ‘No-one comes out unscathed,’ a friend said recently.

    It has been and continues to be a place of unlearning in so many ways. Of re-shaping, re-forming, recovering and restoring. A place of amazing depth and delight in the deceptively ordinary, surprising moments of giving and receiving love.

    And I’d do it all again. It’s been that crazy good.