Saturday

I am not okay



I've been putting off writing this post forever.

The longer a silence goes on, the harder it is to break it. I'm conscious of the fact that we have hundreds of new subscribers on board since the last time I posted (thank you for being here!!)... and this is not exactly the way I would have chosen to welcome you.

The thing is, I am not exactly okay.

It's hard to talk about, so I'm going to start with something easier. Something external to me and big and dramatic that might just take the focus away from the small and hard and personal things for just a little while longer.

It's been approximately forever since my last post. There was a good reason for my silence at first. The day my last post went live, we were hit by a Category 5 cyclone. I live 5 minutes from the beach.... just south of that little dot on the map called "Yeppoon".


The day before impact, the cyclone had been predicted to hit the coast quite a distance north from where we live, and then only at a Category 2-3. In the last 24 hours, it intensified extremely quickly into a Cat 5. And unfortunately for us, the path kept shifting south, until it was heading directly for us. Tropical Cyclone Marcia was predicted to make landfall in the early hours of Friday morning.


I won't lie: I was scared. It started out kind of exciting and thrilling - a cyclone! I'd never been in a cyclone before. We bought torches and spare batteries and found candles and matches. We kept checking updates and watched the news reports.

Somewhere before bedtime on Thursday night, though, it wasn't so fun anymore. By this time, the storm had blown up to epic proportions, and I knew too much.

I'd done some reading up on the Bureau of Meteorology website and learned these fun facts:


Experts were comparing it in intensity to Hurricane Katrina. I saw visions of flattened, devastated neighbourhoods and wondered if we'd still have a house in the morning. If anyone would. 

Lots of people were evacuating from the coast and fleeing to Rocky, or to the cyclone shelter in Yeppoon. Should we go? Should we stay? It had all happened so fast, I felt completely caught off guard. Only that morning on Facebook I'd been joking about the impending cyclone interfering with my social plans. All of a sudden, it was no longer a joke.

Thursday night, I hardly slept. 

First thing in the morning, we built ourselves a bunker in the Walk-in-Robe. We lined it with mattresses and stocked it with water, snacks, torches, and games for the kids. They thought it was fantastic. A secret hideout! Hooray! 

We tried to keep it lighthearted and make a game of it, but truthfully, I felt sick with anticipation. I had no idea what to expect in the next few hours. Would the windows shatter? Would the roof fly off? Would debris slice through the house? Would I be able to protect my kids?


The wind started to pick up outside. On the news, the Premier warned us that we were about to go through a "terrifying and harrowing experience." Amazingly enough, this didn't help me feel any better.

Then the power went out. It was happening.


We watched the trees in our backyard blown nearly horizontal from the force of the wind. The roar sounded like a freight train screaming past within inches of our home. 

And yet, the more intense the storm became, the calmer I felt. It was the oddest thing. 

Before the power went out I'd been talking to some friends on Facebook. I knew we had people praying for us from all over the world. I could actually feel the prayers. The sick panicked feeling slowly ebbed and subsided. During the worst of the storm, I lay down on the mattress with Allegra and we both fell fast asleep.

We woke to an altered world.

It took some time for us to register what had happened. Half a dozen trees in our backyard were snapped in two from the ferocity of the wind. But our house was fine. Our street was fine. The people sheltering down the road from us in the Rec Club were fine. There were trees down over the roads everywhere and a few fence panels blown out here and there, but the houses we saw in our neighbourhood were all remarkably intact. 


How was this possible? A Category 5 storm was supposed to flatten everything in its path, wasn't it?

We limped into Rocky down a debris-strewn highway and couldn't believe the contrast. Rockhampton, half an hour further inland, where the storm had eased off to a Category 3 by the time it hit. And it was like a warzone. Hundreds of powerlines down across streets. Piles of twisted steel and debris. Massive trees blocking roads. Roofs missing. Carports and sheds blown away.





This was my father-in-law's place after impact. The bedroom roof was torn off completely, leaving the room open to the sky.


The house was deemed unfit for habitation and taped off. They were told they couldn't go back inside.

Thankfully the in-laws have a fully furnished second house which escaped unscathed, so they have somewhere to live. But needless to say, they were shaken by the experience. They were sheltering downstairs in the bathroom when the roof ripped away - I can only imagine how frightening that must have sounded.


It took us a while to understand what had happened: that the cyclone had grazed past the edge of us on the coast, and hit Rockhampton straight on. After seeing the devastation from a Category 3 direct hit in Rocky, I can only imagine how tragic the outcome could have been for everyone on the coast had we sustained a direct hit (as had been predicted) while the cyclone was still at Category 5. 

Without doubt, lives would have been lost. 

Even catching the side of the storm at its fully fledged fury, Yeppoon (just to the north of us) was hit hard and suffered some serious damage. But I believe it's God's grace that the path of the storm veered sideways, sparing the coast the most powerful winds at the height of the cyclone's intensity.

With hundreds of power lines down in the wake of TC Marcia, the city and coast sweltered in the tropical heat. The power was out almost everywhere and would remain out for a week. No air-conditioning, no fans, no refrigerators. Food spoiled. The sound of generators became the noisy theme of the still nights. People queued for hours to buy petrol from the one or two servos with power. 


After a day in the dripping hot humidity on the coast, we fled to hubby's Rockhampton office where miraculously the power was still on. The bliss of air-conditioning!! Those rooms became quite the drop-in centre. At night we had wall to wall bodies, upstairs and down. It felt good to be able to help others out. 

We knew we'd been incredibly fortunate. Some people had lost everything. Still, for the first couple of days after the cyclone, I kept catching myself tearing up at odd moments. I think it was delayed shock. My body saying, "What the hell just happened!" The terror of waiting for the storm to hit, the intensity of it all, the wash of weak relief afterward, the unsettling strangeness of driving around town seeing a familiar landscape made alien, ugly, scarred. Enormous trees ripped up whole by the roots. Piles of debris and branches on every street. A world in chaos.

In some way, the turmoil of the outside world matched the turmoil I had been feeling inside for quite some time. Months, actually. 

And here's the hard part. The bit that's scary and difficult for me to talk about.

The fact is, I've been struggling with depression.

There. I said it.

I am not okay.



I guess it really started last year, around the time we were getting ready to move. It was to be our third move in three years. I'd been planning for it, but everything changed at the last minute and all of a sudden we didn't know where we would be moving to

We'd put all the pieces into place for a big move to the other end of the state, but an unexpected opportunity came up and we started seriously considering a local sea-change instead, from the city to the nearby coast.  We were relying on some specific external factors to help us make our decision, but the answers we needed never came. All of a sudden it was crunch time - schools needed to finalise the kids' enrolments for the new year, and we had to make our choice.

I started having panic attacks. The first time it happened, it was triggered by someone at church asking about our plans for our move. Everyone was confused about what we were doing. Heck, we were confused about what we were doing.

I tried to answer, and found I couldn't breathe. I could barely speak. It felt like my lungs were being squeezed and I couldn't get enough air in. I felt dizzy. My heart battered in my chest like I was being chased. I burst into tears.

It got worse, to the point where trying to get the kids off to school in the morning was enough to trigger a panic attack. I felt anxious all the time. I'd never had anxiety before. I'd been stressed out before, of course, but this went so far beyond stress. It was a constant burning, churning in my gut. Heart galloping. A feeling of inexplicable dread and terror. It was horrible. And nothing touched the sides of the anxiety. Deep breathing didn't do a thing. Nothing helped.


Our church held a two week revival, and things went really downhill at that point. The intensity of what I was going through reached a whole new level. I went to church every night, and every day the anxiety grew worse. I had never felt such an oppression in my entire life. I felt under attack.

Now, please understand that I'm not  saying ALL depression or anxiety is a spiritual attack. It's a real thing, a physiological thing. I know - I grew up in a family where serious mental illness was a part of our lives. You wouldn't tell a person with cancer that it was caused by some spiritual problem. Same goes for any illness of the mind. I feel really strongly about that.

However, during that particular week of my life, I definitely felt under spiritual attack. It made me get stubborn. I knew I had to keep attending the services. I received prayer and felt God move in tangible ways. But it wasn't until after the revival ended, at a women's Bible study meeting when my pastor's wife began praying for me, praying with passionate authority against anxiety, that the power of God swept through me so strongly that I was left literally on the floor unable to stand up.

And the anxiety left.

Gone.

Instantly, completely and utterly gone. It was breathtaking. I could hardly dare believe it.

It has never been back.

I know without a doubt that God healed me. Pure grace, because I'm sure I wouldn't have survived the chaos of the end of last year if things had continued the way they'd been going. I wouldn't have coped.

In the end, we made our move blindly. Without the vital information we needed. Praying for guidance. Stepping out into thin air and hoping for the best. Feeling as if everything we'd expected to happen had been turned on its head.

And we entered a weird sort of limbo full of uncertainty and waiting.

Waiting for answers. Waiting for our house to sell. Waiting for the right door to open so we can buy some land and get settled here.

Waiting for those thin blue lines on a stick.


We’ve been trying for another baby for what feels like forever and is actually somewhat over a year. Every month that I’m not pregnant I get really sad, and then the next week I have a bad day with the kids and I’m all conflicted over whether I could even handle another one. Basket case much? I’m 35 years old, I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and every month that ticks past it feels like my chances of ever having another child are dwindling. I know what infertility feels like – we had trouble conceiving our first child too, even with medical intervention – and it’s just not a fun place to be in.

Enter mental opponent number two... depression.

Ever since our move, I've struggled to settle in to our new community. In all honesty, I've felt incredibly lonely and isolated. As a stay-home Mum, I rely so much on my outside support networks - playgroup, playdates with friends. I never realised quite how much those things meant to me until I'd left them behind.

The process of meeting new people and getting involved in local groups could have happened a lot quicker except that we sold our second car shortly after we moved, and so I've been stranded at home a lot of the time. My routine flew out the window. I couldn't make classes at the gym, so I stopped exercising altogether. I heard about a great playgroup I would have loved to join, but I couldn't get there.

I've missed blogging. I know it all sounded good in my Balance post, but truthfully, since cutting back this year, I feel like I've lost part of myself. I know blogging shouldn't determine my worth, but the fact is, without this creative outlet, I've felt discouraged and worthless.

Image by twobee, Freedigitalphotos.net
At the same time, depression makes it much, much harder to face blogging. I withdraw from people and I get scared about what others will think of me. The blank white screen is unutterably daunting. What if they hate me? What if I have nothing worthwhile to offer? I probably don't. I already feel like a failure. It's easier to run away and hide, not to even try.

My thoughts have become increasingly negative. I've spent entire days either crying nonstop or slumped lifelessly at the table while Allegra watches TV. I've always been a highly motivated, go-getter type of person, but this year everything has felt like an effort. I haven't been able to sleep and I forget to eat. My concentration has been shot.

I've been seeing a doctor. My depression is classed as "moderate", not severe, so I was given a choice whether to go on medication or try some other things first. At the moment, I'm trying some other things.

And you know what... they've been working.

The last two weeks, things have been looking up.

Some key circumstances have changed. We bought a second car. What a ripple effect that's had. I've finally been able to get out of the house with Allegra and go to playgroup. I've started exercising again four times a week. I've met some people - truly lovely people. I've had grown-up conversations with other ACTUAL ADULTS. I've joined B-school and have been ploughing my way through the work, feeling a sense of purpose returning to me, a sense of achievement and accomplishment that I've missed so much.

Things have changed.

I'm sure if they hadn't, this post would have languished as a Blogger draft forever, for if there's one thing depression steals, it's courage, and sharing this has taken every bit of courage I possess.

I still have down days. I'm not all better yet. But I'm putting this out there in the hope that it may speak to someone else who has been through or is going through the same thing.

The first step is simply to do what I've done today. You don't have to share your naked soul with thousands of readers. Just tell a friend. Tell your partner. Just say the words.

I am not okay.

And see what happens. Things can only get better from here.

Thursday

Chalkboard pantry makeover... and an announcement I Heart like crazy!



I could not be more thrilled to make today's announcement. In fact, I'm still pinching myself. 

When I first started blogging, I stumbled across a fabulous site called IHeart Organizing. It was love at first sight - I spent hours combing through project galleries, reading posts and related posts and favourite posts and pretty much everything that could be devoured in one sitting. The owner, Jennifer Jones, has an incredible talent for organising her home and bringing beauty to every single space she touches. Seriously, the woman is an organising goddess. Plus she is kind and sweet and smart and yes, gorgeous too. If I was a guy I'd totally have a crush on her. As it is I kind of have a girl-crush on her. In a totally non-stalkerish, I-am-happily-married-with-three-children sort of way.

I became an avid reader of said blog, and gradually came to realise just what a juggernaut of a success story it is. I mean, we're talking 2.5 million page views a month. That's massive! 

So when, at the end of last year, Jen casually posted that she was looking to add a couple of new members to her contributor team, my first thought was OHMYGOODNESS THAT WOULD BE AMAZING, following in quick succession by no way would I ever be good enough for that

But dreams are made for chasing, so I put in an application anyway, kind of embarrassed that Jen would infer from this that I actually thought I had a chance. I really badly wanted to let her know that it was okay, I didn't really expect her to choose me, and I completely knew what a long shot it was to even apply... but that's not exactly the sort of thing one can write in an application, is it?! 

So you can imagine my complete and utter shock and delight when THIS happened: 



Yes, guys.... can you believe it??! I still can't! I could not be more honoured and excited to be partnering up with Jen. 

Today is my debut contributor post over at IHeart Organizing, and I'm sharing my chalkboard pantry makeover - I'd be thrilled if you would come over and check it out! 

WARNING: "Before" photos may frighten small children. ;)

If you're new here from IHeart Organizing, I'd love you to stay and have a look around! You might want to start by taking my home tour here:


You can find out more about me here or take a look at my Project Gallery (which badly needs an update - working on it!!)

And if you just want to browse, here are a few of my most popular projects to get started with.

Circus-theme party favours

Industrial wire mail baskets
Stencilled Billy bookcases

And of course, don't leave without grabbing your FREE COPY of my book:



In other news, my whole site is undergoing a behind-the-scenes refurbishment at the moment, so stay tuned to see the unveiling in a couple of weeks' time - I can't wait! It's going to be cleaner, fresher, bigger, easier to read and navigate, and mobile responsive - all with a pretty new look that I'm super excited about! I'll be migrating from my Blogger platform over to Wordpress, and I'm looking forward to all the many extra capabilities that will bring.

Meanwhile, don't forget to take a look at my chalkboard pantry makeover, and tell me... how do you organise your pantry?

Wishing you a house full of sunshine,

Friday

Peacock blue and hot pink mid-century-modern mood board

This week I've been busy finalising a client's mood boards for their brand new living space. It's been an exciting project that has involved choosing colours from the ground up for a new build - exterior colours, paint, tiles, carpets, kitchen, bathrooms and lighting. The last step: to fill the newly-finished home with furniture and accessories. Always without a doubt my favourite part!

It's a beach home with an open-plan living and dining area, and the brief was for a contemporary style.



All links are to Wayfair Australia. Apologies to my US friends.

The client started with a vibrant peacock-blue couch to work around. I added an oversized sisal woven rug with hints of soft powder blue for depth, and continued the tropical beach feel in the woven side table and graphic leaf-print cushion.

The vivid blue of the couch is echoed in a watery turquoise print on canvas. I also added two smaller framed prints to balance the dimensions of the square canvas and bring a correct sense of scale to what is a large, blank, rectangular living room wall.

For the furnishings, I elected to go with Scandinavian mid-century modern style. In that vein, I found such a perfect TV unit that it would almost be a shame to sit a TV on it and distract from those highly good-looking legs.

And goodness, how perfect is that floor lamp?

Now for the dining area... quite possibly my favourite part!






































SWOOOOOOON. Can we just start with that AMAZING artwork on canvas? Talk about bringing a splash of "WOW" to a room! I absolutely love how it picks up the peacock tones of the couch, and also injects some warmth and vibrancy into a predominantly cool, grey and blue colour scheme. Hot pink - ummm, yes please!

Pair that with an oversized silver leaf hung on an adjacent bare white wall, and you have a real statement piece.

The problem with decorating other peoples' houses like this is that I WANT ALL OF THE THINGS IN MY OWN HOME.

Seriously. It is a problem.

Underneath the artwork-of-incredible-gorgeousness, you will find a handsome mid-century style buffet with rather sexy legs. (*wolf whistles*). To style the buffet, I'd set the table lamp slightly to the right, and fill the centre with this collection of sea-glass-like vessels. (The one on the left is a real show-stopper - it's an abundant, oversized vessel in the exactly perfect shade of blue found in the painting. Love!!) I've selected a range of shapes and sizes to complement each other.

You'll notice that I went with a glass-topped dining table, which serves to open up the space as it doesn't impede visual flow. Very good in small or enclosed areas. The dining chairs are fantastic because they manage to look both modern and comfortable. Ding-ding-ding!! That designer wins the prize right there. Love the charcoal linen fabric, too.

A rug beneath the dining table helps to delineate the eating area, creating a separate zone within the larger open-plan room.

So there you have it.... lots of colour... lots of vibe... and some sexy legs thrown in for good measure.

What do you think? Anyone else crushing on THAT artwork??  If you could have any of these pieces in your own home, which would you choose?

Note: Australian shoppers.... these links are for you! Wayfair delivers fast Australia-wide, and many products ship for free. I am loving this store, people. Go on.... live on the wild side... have a browse, buy some stuff. You know you want to. Links are affiliates, which doesn't cost you anything extra and may enable me to buy myself a sandwich. Or a coffee. Probably not both. 

Thursday

Unique gift ideas for your man


So.... you know how I wrote that blog post about Balance? Well, a big priority for me this year is to focus on my marriage.

One of my big love languages is gift giving, but if I'm to be honest, I've really let that slide recently where my husband is concerned. I was so stressed-out and busy before Christmas that it was all I could manage to organise presents for the kids before we went away. Hubby got an "experience gift", but it was given in a bit of a half-hearted manner, and there was nothing for him to actually unwrap under the tree on Christmas morning. My next plan was to take him shopping for our anniversary a few days later, but that didn't end up happening either. Whomp-whomp.

So that's why my thoughts have turned lately to Valentine's Day, which is only 2 weeks away after all.


I don't know about you, but when you've been married to someone for 14 years like I have, it's easy to get into a gift-giving rut. The usual T-shirts and golf-balls and socks have all been done to death. We're no longer struggling newlyweds, and anything Stephen really wants throughout the year, he is pretty much able to go and buy for himself. So that leaves me a bit stymied in the present department.

I decided this year to start early and really have a good look around for something unique and creative that would be meaningful to Stephen. Of course, that's easier said than done during school holidays with three kids to tow around from shop to shop. Not to mention that I didn't have a clue what I was looking for.

Thank God for the internet.

Turns out, there is heaps of cool stuff out there. Quirky, fun, useful, meaningful and unique stuff that I think my hubby would really, really like, but that he wouldn't necessarily think to buy for himself. Stuff that (*cue singing angels*) can be ordered online with a few clicks while the children are asleep and I'm wearing my pyjamas and eating chocolate ice-cream.

Now THAT sounds FAR more appealing to me than enacting a repeat of our last shopping trip, which involved impromptu sibling wrestling matches in Aisle 3 and a sanity-shattering toddler meltdown at the checkout.

Mothers everywhere, let us pause in a moment of profound gratitude for the inventor of online shopping.

I had so much fun searching out cool gift ideas that I decided to put together a gift guide for anyone else in need of inspiration for the man in their life. I can't be the only one who gets stuck for ideas, right? I hope you find something here to spoil your special guy, whether it's for Valentine's Day, a birthday or just to say "I love you".

All retailers are U.S. based, but ship worldwide (including to Australia!)  

Note: Affiliate links are used in this post, which means I receive a small commission on any purchases made, at no extra cost to you. Please consider supporting your favourite bloggers by shopping through their affiliate links - it enables us to pay the running costs of our sites and continue to share free content for your enjoyment. I appreciate your support!


1/ Scratch Map: Use a coin to scratch away countries you've visited and reveal the colours underneath. We love travelling as a couple, and have seen a fair bit of the globe together. We've often talked about coming up with a way to celebrate and remember the places we've been, but our ideas have always seemed kinda cheesy. I think this is the bomb.

2/ Pick Punch: Does your man like to strum a guitar? I'll bet he can never find his pick when he needs one. This is the best invention ever for music-loving types. It enables you to punch a pick out of old membership cards and credit cards. Stephen already has one of these, and he LOOOOOVES it, swears by it, and uses it all the time.

3/ Past, Present, Future Watch: We're all trying to live more in the moment... so this watch only shows the present time. Now that's a meaningful gift. Nice sleek, minimalist design, too.

4/ Batman First Issue Comic Book Cover Cufflinks: For the MARVEL-ous man in your life... (te he)

5/ Driftwood iPhone Charging Dock: Because everyone should charge their phone in a log. (How perfect would this look on a manly office desk??)

6/ Personalized LP Record: Choose your names and up to 5 songs significant to you as a couple. Float-mounted on glass, it looks pretty darn awesome and is super sentimental to boot. I would very much like to see this hanging on the wall of hubby's music studio.





7/ Sole Sox: Does your man fancy a foot-rub? These anatomically correct socks show all the pressure points on your feet for the perfect massage.

8/ Tom Carter Voyager Watch: This is one good-looking watch. I love the black and white dual-tone thing it has going on - the perfect blend of hip, sophisticated, and kinda sporty. Your man could equally wear it to the gym or to a fancy dinner.

9/ Unzipped Glass Zipper Bag: Chocolate and lollies are the lovers' gift of choice, right? Be unique and stick 'em in something cool. Like this funky glass ziplock bag. It's like an art object filled with jellybeans.

10/ Personalized Couple Art: Well, this is just sweet. Fulfill all your lifelong ambitions to be a whimsical long-legged line drawing, with your partner right by your side. Romantic, with a nice understated design... I like it.

11/ Vintage Typewriter Key Cufflinks: Made with authentic vintage typewriter keys set in sterling silver. Select any combination of letters for a personalised gift - your husband's initials? Yours and his together? Sweet and discreet.

12/ Seat Buckle Belt - Volkswagen: I don't know, I can't stop looking at this. If my hubby were really into cars I would totally give him a seatbelt-belt. He is my lovebug, after all.

13/ Double Money Clip: My husband has a money clip and it changed his life. No more wallet bulge in the jeans pocket. He loves it and won't use anything else. But it is tricky to load up too many cards and too much cash or you risk something coming loose. Now THIS is a smart idea I've never seen before: a double-sided money clip for double the storage capacity. It may look small, but I know for one my man would truly use and appreciate this thoughtful gift!

14/ Skyline of Love: Personalise this canvas with your names and the skyline of a city that's significant to you both. Choose from any U.S. city or a huge list of cities worldwide. (Including Brisbane, Sydney and the Gold Coast.)


Let's chat: Please tell me I'm not the only one who gets stuck coming up with new present ideas for the man in my life. Are there any gifts on this list that catch your eye? Who else here has "gift-giving" as their love language?

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