We have just been on vacation to Fiji, and came back with more than your usual souvenir. The kids were busy souvenir hunting and came back with little soft toys. Turtle teddies. Four of them. Each child had theirs in their backpack when returning home, and each child’s backpack got pulled aside once through the x-ray machine at the baggage reclaim. On each search, the attendant pulled out a little green turtle.
It was pretty funny actually. I guess they thought the little critters were real and that we were trying to smuggle them into the country. Some kind of rare turtle breed traffickers, or something. They grabbed the backpacks with relish and gusto, only to look rather sheepishly amused when they discovered what was really in the backpack.
Back to Fiji, though. We loved it; had a great time. Until my youngest child developed a high fever on our penultimate evening in Fiji. His fever was UP there. With several other kids, I have experienced 40+ degrees (centigrade) of fever. I know what it feels like to my hand. His was at least 40 degrees. With vomiting. But by the next morning he seemed fine.
However, a couple of days on, and a sudden rash sprung up on his hands and feet. So a quick trip to the doctor later, and he was diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth disease, rather more of a souvenir than we bargained for.
Added to that, my next youngest had a slight fever today, and threw up a few times, so I’ll be watching her hands and feet pretty carefully!
Never mind, them’s the breaks I guess. Especially when your kids want to go to the kids’ club at the resort, and get sneezed on and coughed at, by dozens of other kids.
Other than that though, it was great. The weather was great (we love warm weather), the food was lovely, and plentiful, we kayaked, swam and snorkeled, and just generally unwound.
Maybe we’ll just avoid kids’ clubs next time around.
So now we have a dichotomy, a dilemma, a fork in the road. The trouble is, up until now, we haven’t known which path to take.
On the one hand we have tropical bliss. We are just reaching the end of a week in Fiji, and to be honest, being here on Plantation Island, or a place like it, is like being in paradise.
And on the other hand, we have a life a business opportunities, conferences, courses, lessons, classes, activities for the kids, within a very organized society.
Both paths have been calling our names. And it’s been a problem, really it has.
The main thing any parent wants to do, is to do right by their kids. But do the kids really want to be ferried around from one activity to another, or do they want time spent as a family, doing things together?
Do we want warm weather, or cold? Do we want blue skies, or cold, wet (or snowy) and gray? Does it even matter? When my husband and I lived in the UK, we pretty much didn’t step out of doors for nine months of the year, because it was just too miserable outside.
I realize that we are totally ‘lucky’ to even have the option. Most people just stay where they are born, at least in the same country, anyway. And here, we have the option of several countries to choose from. But it has been a dilemma. Truly.
You see, more than just good weather versus bad weather, and tropical fruits versus apples and pears, is the tearing within our own souls. We are people who want to be busy, yet we also want a relaxed life with no pressure. Business opportunities are important to us, but so is a quiet life. And mixing the two just doesn’t seem to be that simple, when your husband works in Financial Services. We want a life that is easy and peaceful, and slow moving, but then there’s that voice which shouts that we need to find something to ‘do’.
The Law of Compensation is this: if you take the left path, you’ll miss all the opportunities, all the futures that you would have had if you’d taken the right. But if you take the right, you’ll miss the peacefulness and tranquility that you would have had, had you taken the left. The real dilemma is that both are really important to us. We want to have our cake, and eat it too.
So is there a way of doing both?
Up until now, this has not been a rhetorical question. We did not know the answer, and perhaps we still don’t, though we are starting to think more creatively about things. Hopefully we will have our answers fairly soon, because we’ve sold our house and our moving date has been brought forward. We leave in three weeks and will be homeless!
So what would you do, if you had sold up and could do anything you wanted?
Would you travel? Or would you settle somewhere tropical? Somewhere Mediterranean? Somewhere cold? In the country? Or the city? On the beach? Would you try and find another job somewhere? Start your own business? Go and live in a log cabin on a mountain somewhere?
Anyway, watch this space. The answer will come; it always does.
How NOT to travel with a bunch of kids: all taken from one 11,000-mile journey, where we made every rookie mistake possible.
DO NOT attempt an 11,000-mile journey with four kids aged five and under, without having an hotel stopover halfway. You will find that this is a big mistake. Huge. Your kids will all sleep on the first flight, and be wide awake for the next 20 hours, while you and your partner will not sleep for two days straight. You will not cope well.
DO NOT book the bassinet row for you and your nursing new born. Bad move. I am being a little sarcastic here, because of course you should be entitled to a bassinet with a new born baby. However, it is more likely that you will be separated from your husband and the rest of your kids, and sat in between two burly football player types, who booked those seats for the extra legroom. They will be the type who say, “Ugh, babies,” as they sit next to you, and their faces will be about 18 inches away from your exposed breast every time you need to feed your baby.
DO NOT ask to change seats if you are put in between said football players. You will then be moved to another bassinet seat, 15 rows further in front, and will not be able to help your stressed husband with the other three kids. You won’t be able to leave your seat to help him get the other kids to the potty, or to help them with their food, because it will mean disturbing the people you are squished in between. You will either have to wake your new born and bring her with you, or leave her in the care of the strange person next to you while you squeeze by her, knocking her drink into her lap, as you run to help.
DO NOT order a special meal. If you order vegetarian, or gluten-free, or any of the other special meals, you’ll be in for a real treat. They are generally far worse than normal airplane food. And to add to that, they will arrive at your tray table at least an hour before the normal meals get dished out, but only collected at the same time. This means that you’ll have trays of food stacked in front of your littlies for at least three hours. For added excitement, your children will inadvertently send them flying every time they try and get comfortable in their seats. There will be food everywhere, especially as they probably haven’t eaten even one mouthful.
DO NOT decide to wait until you disembark at the end of your flight before you complete the landing cards. You will be too stressed and too tired, and if you’re anything like me, your eyes won’t work properly after such a long trip and you won’t even be able to read the darn things by then, anyway.
DO NOT decide that it’s only one landing card per family, when as a family, you are entering the country on a total of six separate passports. You will stand in line for hours to get through immigration, only to be sent back to the desk for incompetent people, where you will have to fill in the required one card per person.
This brings me back to my previous point:
DO NOT decide to wait until you disembark at the end of your flight before you complete the landing cards. Because IT’S ONE CARD PER PERSON! And that equals six cards. With lots of details on each. And you will be stressed and snapping at your partner; probably one of you will threaten to get on the next plane to where you just came from. Because at that point in time, another 24-hour journey seems a lot less complicated than trying to fill in a zillion things on a card, multiplied by six. Oh, and by now, your kids will be so bored, tired, hungry and exhausted, that they will be roaring and wailing, and rolling all over the airport floor, because it’s just too much, and they can’t take anymore. One of the immigration officers might be kind enough to come and offer to help you, but only after you have been struggling for half an hour, and are halfway through the last card. It will be a very nice gesture though.
DO NOT book a rental car which says it’s a seven-seater, but really isn’t. Instead, it’s a five-seater, with two fold out seats that open in the trunk. If you hire that baby, you’ll have no room for your luggage. Your tired children will end up with suitcases piled on top of them, under their feet, and you’ll end up sandwiched into your seat so tightly that you won’t be able to move again until you reach your destination, and your legs will have gone to sleep by the time you do. H ire a bus. Even if it costs the earth, it’ll be worth it. There is such a thing as false economy, and I reckon this would fit into that category.
DO NOT let the kids drag you out to the pool or the beach, when you arrive at your destination. And don’t try and stay awake for as long as possible. Just sleep, and make your kids lie down until they fall asleep. You’ll probably all be comatose for the next eight hours, but when you wake up, you’ll all be happy again; even if it is in the middle of the night.
Avoid all of these pitfalls, and it’ll be a piece of cake.
We’ve got it down to a fine art now, and I’ve even taken it upon myself to fill in the landing cards at the beginning of each flight. Then I get to sit back and bask in the glow of my own smug competence for the rest of the journey. Well maybe not, but at least I don’t have wailing, rolling kids at our destination airport anymore.
Have you ever thought that TV is a great way to control the masses?
I not talking about some big conspiracy to keep everyone subdued, lest we rise up and overthrow those at the top. Not at all. I think TV was a money maker for those in the film industry, and why not make money if you can?
However, it does have the side effect of putting peoples’ brains into a rather comatose state, does it not? Just sit down and be fed mindless entertainment night after night for the rest of your life. It’ll dull the pain. In fact, if I get to live vicariously, the peoples’ lives I see on TV, then I can forget about my own life for a while. My own lack of direction, lack of a goal, lack of a purpose.
What do you think would happen if people turned off their TVs, and didn’t turn them back on again?
They would wake up, that’s what! They would discover that they are not happy with their lives.
According to this Forbes article, 52.3% of American people are unhappy at work, and according to this article, 80% of people in London are unhappy. I reckon these statistics are probably pretty accurate.
If I hate my job, then it’s safe to say that just lolling in front of the TV all evening, will entertain me enough and numb my brain enough, that I forget just how much I hate my job, until the next morning when I have to get up again and go to work.
What would happen if I hated my job, and didn’t go and watch TV every evening? Well, I’d moan to my husband about my job, and then we’d look for a way to fix the problem. I’d spend my evenings trawling the internet, looking for a job I will enjoy more. Or maybe I’ll use my evenings to study something which would enable me to change career as soon as ever I can. Perhaps I’d use my evenings to plan my own start-up business. There are so many things I could do if I didn’t just sit in front of the TV.
But I’ll tell you one thing I wouldn’t be doing. I wouldn’t be carrying on with something I hate, day after day, year after year. Without TV as my nightly anesthetic, my brain would be functioning properly, and I would be coming up with a plan to change the things I don’t like in my life. I would be improving myself, and working towards a future that gives my hope rather than one that fills me with despair.
Isn’t that worth turning the TV off for?
Just say for a moment, that everyone threw out their TVs. What do you think would happen? I can picture it now. More people would be out exercising, getting fit, staying fit. People would become creative in all sorts of ways. They might spend more time with their kids. Maybe they’ll find ways to start up their own little enterprise and make a bit of extra cash.
I guess it’s quite probable that within a year, there would be a dramatic increase in the number of babies born, too. Actually, by the time we had children numbers four and five, people were advising us to get a TV. “Don’t you guys have a TV? You know, that rectangular looking thing that sits in the corner of the room while everyone stares at it for the whole evening? Maybe you should get one?”
Seriously though, I reckon that if those who sit and watch TV for hours every evening, were to spend their evenings doing something else, it would change the way our society, as a whole, looks and functions.
What do you think would happen if you took away the kids’ TV and computer games? We have done this. Several times, in fact. It looks like this. For the first few days, they wander around aimlessly, being bored, telling you they are bored, and that there is nothing to do. Then after about three days, their brains start to wake up again; they start firing on all cylinders again. The kids start to play. Shock, horror! They can still be creative enough to make up their own games. And, (wonders will never cease), they’ll find they can play those made-up games together, without fighting.
You and your partner will probably keel over in shock because your kids actually seem to like each other, and are getting along really well. And it’s really weird, but they will seem so much happier making up games, and doing normal kid stuff, than they ever were when they were entertained by TV and computer games all the time.
It’s definitely worth going cold turkey for.
So how about it? If you’re a big TV addict, and can’t live without the latest episode of whatever it is you’re hooked on, how about trying it for a month? Unplug the TV and put it in the attic, and try not to sneak up there to watch it when you’re having withdrawals.
The first few days to a week might be hell on earth. But your creative genius will emerge, that wonderful thing that has been lying dormant for all this time. And then the magic will really start to happen. Maybe after a while, you’ll even start to wonder how you ever sat there, hour after hour, night after night, staring at the rectangular thing which sat in the corner of your room.
But what do you think? Could it be worth a try?
Feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear what happened when you decided to turn off the TV.
Capacity is a total state of mind. When you believe you can do something, your mind sets about finding ways to do it. On the other hand, when you believe something is impossible, your mind goes to work for you, to prove why you can’t do it.
The amount you can manage to do in a day, or a week, in other words your capacity, is all about your mind set; how much you believe you can do.
You can discover solutions to personal problems if you believe you can. You can find ways to make your marriage better, if you believe you can. And you can find ways to increase your earnings, if you believe you can.
If you don’t believe you can, then your mind will give you plenty of reasons as to why you can’t.
It’s not about the problem which lies in front of you, and how big it is. Nope. Our attitude towards our problem is the key to solving it.
When my husband and I were first married, we wanted to spend all of our time together, and we decided that the best way for us to do this, was to find a way for him to work from home.
It was quite peculiar really. We both had that “A-ha!” moment at the same time. He was on the train on the way home from work, and I was making the dinner. Like a flash of lightning, it dropped into my head, “He could work from home! That would work.” Unbeknownst to me, that lightning bolt had flashed into his mind at the same moment on the train. Pretty cool, really.
So when he got home, we started making plans. At the time, he was a Software Tester for one of the big banks in London. We decided that even though he wanted to work from home, it probably wouldn’t be prudent to chuck in his job just yet. But we came to the conclusion that we would look for something, and just carry on as we were for a while.
Within a very short time, two opportunities came up. One was from a person who my husband had met on a real estate course. The other, my husband phoned to ask them if he could market their product, as it was something of theirs which he used for himself. They agreed to the possibility, and we set up meetings with each set of people.
The first one sounded easy, and profitable. The second, not so easy, and not so profitable, though ok; just harder work.
Things were going well at the first meeting, and we were quite taken in by the guy’s presentation. Until he mentioned that we’d have to get a new phone every three months, and throw the old one in the river. Hmmm, okaaay then. At the end of the meeting, we said our goodbyes and backed out the door as graciously as we could. Alarm bells were ringing in our heads.
That so-called ‘opportunity’ did turn out to be a massive scam, and people ended up being prosecuted. We were happy that we had run away as far and fast as we possibly could.
So we moved on to the next meeting. It went well. The people were wonderful. They were the totally upstanding sort of people who you knew would do a thing just because they had said they would. And we could just tell that every little detail would be honest and above board. Though at first, this particular opportunity had seemed like the least lucrative, we made an agreement with them that my husband would become their marketing and salesperson, and that their other guys would handle the techy stuff.
We paid for one advertisement to run on a contractor website, and for the first couple of months, my husband would be excited if he got one call a day. He would return those calls in his lunch hour, and before much longer he started getting more inquiries, as through the advert and through word of mouth, things started picking up.
Fairly quickly, things got to the point where he no longer had time to return calls on his breaks, because there were simply too many of them. So at the stage where he was not earning as much as he did in his Software Testing job, but we had enough to just about pay our bills, he left his job and took the leap into working from home.
Twelve years later, he is still working from home. That one opportunity which we grabbed with both hands and ran with, has enabled us to be location independent, and has done well enough that we have never had to worry about how we will pay the bills. It has been fantastic. However, it’s not going to go on forever, so we are currently working on starting up other things.
My point in this is to say that when you believe you can do something, the right opportunities will come your way. Your mind will find creative ways to solve your dilemma, and before you know it you’ll be on the path to achieving your goal.
Capacity too, is a state of mind. Maybe some people might have said that there was no way they could do the extra work when they already had a full time job. My hubby knew he had to if he wanted to work from home, and so he found a way to make it work. He paid an answering service and redirected all his calls to them. They took the call and sent him the messages, and he then returned the calls on his break. There are ways to do anything you want to do. You just have to put your mind to it.
Actually, my husband has always been a great problem solver. I’m more the one who says, “Help! This isn’t working!” And then I just plow on anyway. Because you know, if something clearly isn’t working, then I should just put more effort in, and that will make it work. Or perhaps it won’t. Work smart, not hard, is my motto now.
It was that way with the home schooling. Things were not working. I was run ragged every day, ‘helping’ the kids, marking their work, entertaining the little ones, making the lunch. So I tried harder. I became more stressed. And so it went on.
Until I spoke to my husband. And he, being a problem solver and general fixer of all dilemmas, came up with the solution instantly. Outsource! So within an hour, he had found an online maths curriculum, which had video lessons and then questions for the kids to answer. It also marked the questions as they went along.
I had gone from teaching three separate maths lessons, helping three kids with everything, and marking all their separate work, to doing nothing except making sure they were actually getting the work done each day. The nice man on the video explained everything, and he even marked their work. In one fell swoop, I was relieved of about three hours’ work a day.
All of a sudden, I had these three extra hours in which to start teaching my next child to read and count. I had more time to read to the littlest and play with him. And I managed to get lunch made on time.
If you believe you can do a thing, there are always ways to do it. And capacity is a state of mind.
I had thought there just wasn’t time to get everything done. But there was. We just had to become more efficient, and do it in a way that worked for everyone.
So here’s my updated resume, which has come about as a result of learning to be more efficient.
I am a mother of five, no sorry, a home schooling mother of five. I write a blog, and I also recently wrote a book, which I will be editing at some point soon. My husband and I are starting up two new businesses, I play field hockey, and up until recently I also had four horses to look after and one to ride. Then there’s the usual cooking, cleaning and laundry chaos which is a family of seven. Plus, we take the kids to their various activities each week. We also find plenty of time to relax. And my husband still manages to get his work done among all this.
But without us streamlining our operation, making it more efficient, there’s no way all of this could happen.
Capacity is a state of mind. And if you believe you can do a thing, your mind will find a way to do it.
The question to ask is not, “Can I do this?” But is should be, “How can I do this?” Because that thing can be done. That problem does have a solution. I just have to put my mind to it, and I can work it out.
Apparently, as humans, we at our happiest and best when we are striving to attain some kind of goal in our lives. In other words, the journey is more fulfilling than the destination, and happiness tends to dissipate once we have reached our goal.
My husband and I have found this to be true in our own lives. We are constantly changing our goals. I said to him once, “No matter what we have in life, no matter what we achieve, it’ll never be enough. We’ll always want more. We are always happiest when we have something to work for.”
And that’s not because we are ungrateful. Not at all. I know how amazingly blessed I am to have a fantastic husband, and five gorgeous kids. I have health and vitality. And I don’t have any worries about money. The lack of contentment comes from achieving my goals. That sounds totally weird, doesn’t it? But think about it. The pleasure comes in the struggle to attain something. Once we have our dream, it loses its shine pretty quickly, and we find we are looking for something else to work towards.
It’s the same for everyone. How about the people climbing the career ladder? How many are really, really happy to stay at the bottom of their chosen career? And how many want to progress? How many are happy earning minimum wage? And how many want to earn more to improve the quality of their life? And who, having achieved a bit more in their careers, are happy to stay where they are for the rest of their life? Surely, after a year or two, boredom will set in, and they will need something new to work towards. Isn’t that the way we humans are wired?
For me, once I settle for what I have right in front of me, that’s when boredom and apathy set in. I always want something new to work for.
Maybe that’s why people look back with nostalgia at the ‘good old days’. They look back to the days when they were young and just starting out, penniless and living hand to mouth, and remember them with fondness. People often feel they were happiest in those days. Why? Perhaps because they had something to strive for. Because they were building a life for themselves. But once it’s built, and once they can pay their bills without a worry, what’s left? Then come the questions: “Is this it? Is this all there is to life? Was I just born to work and pay bills, and then die?” And dissatisfaction sets in.
So what can be done about it? Having a goal in life, is the same as having purpose. And purpose does not have to be all about oneself.
In fact, according to Napoleon Hill, we are happiest when we are serving others.
I listened to a talk by Jack Canfield, and he spoke about a friend of his who was earning huge amounts of money, but it wasn’t enough. So he earned more. That still wasn’t fulfilling, so he decided to buy whatever he wanted. Planes, houses, gadgets, anything. He still wasn’t happy. So he found a cause. He found something he wanted to do for free, to help others. And suddenly he had a reason to get out of bed in the mornings. A purpose.
The actor Jim Carrey said, “I wish that everyone could be rich and famous, and then they would see that it isn’t the answer.”
I agree. In my own life, I have found that having something to work towards, is what makes me the happiest, not already having everything. It’s hard wired into me to want to be striving to achieve a goal. And I’m sure I’m not unusual in that.
What do you think? Would you agree with this? And if you are bored and discontented, are there any new goals you can set for yourselves? Don’t be afraid to dream big. Dreaming big is good.
Oh boy, I am sat here faced with an empty screen, and I have no idea where to start. So I’ll just start from the beginning, shall I?
Maybe I’ll tell you a bit about myself.
When I was growing up, my parents’ attitude was that if I got a well-paying job that enabled me to have a mortgage, then I was doing well.
To be honest, I think that is the attitude of most people. Especially when you hit your late teens and early twenties. At that age, all you want to do is move out of the parental home, and so if you can get a job which will finance this, then you’ve made it. Until you’re a few years in, and by then you’re wondering if this is all there is to life, and thinking that surely there must be more.
I did things the opposite way, and that didn’t do much for my hopes of ever having my own place. When I left school at the age of 16, I immediately took a low-paying job because I wanted to ride horses. It didn’t take long for me to discover that there was no way on earth, that doing this would ever enable me to buy my own house. By this time, the shine of working with horses had worn off. I had no other skills, and I was fed up with working for a pittance. I also had no clue how to change things.
My husband on the other hand, comes from South Africa. He was working there at a time when his employment prospects were rather underwhelming. The only job he could get, was one as a delivery driver, and it took six months of searching and knock-backs before he could get that.
Through a great opportunity which came his way, he was able to get together enough money to come to the UK. He had quite a different attitude to me. Because he’d been struggling in South Africa, he decided that he wasn’t going to do a job for the love of it; he was going to do whatever he could to get ahead and be financially secure. His first job in the UK was on a building site, and then he was offered an entry level IT job.
When I met him, he was a Software Tester, and had managed to get a mortgage on a little two-bedroom end of terrace house close to the North Circular in London.
It was after we married that the real adventures began.
In our twelve years of marriage, hubby has gained a degree, and we have gained five kids. We have moved house 18 times, and I think about 9 of those times have involved a change of country. Five years ago, we emigrated to the opposite side of the world. Hubby has had a business which has enabled us to be location independent, though he did have to work nights for a while over here. And we are now in the process of setting up two more businesses, which will enable us to continue this location independent lifestyle, where we can travel at will, and school the kids along the way.
When I look back over the years, and think about how we’ve achieved all this, I can see one thing only: the refusal to settle for the norm.
We both entered into our marriage with a whole heap of issues and baggage. And our motto from the beginning was ‘healing at any cost.’ We didn’t care what it took, because we were in the business of self-improvement, and we wouldn’t rest, wouldn’t give in, wouldn’t just settle for the way things were. No way. We would fight until our last breath, to become better people.
It’s that same attitude which has led us on our adventures. Our refusal to settle for what was in front of us. The point blank refusal to accept that what we already had, was all we could hope for. We wanted to live life on our own terms, and we wanted freedom. There was absolutely no way we were going to settle for anything less.
My husband used to look at the people commuting into work in London every morning, and vow to himself that he would never become one of them. Riding the train for two or three hours a day, for forty or so years. Becoming as grey looking as the weather because they had no hope of ever doing anything different in life. Trudging along with no spring in their step, because they were worn down and worn out. He decided pretty early on, that the commuting life was not the life for him.
So when I look back at all of this, I don’t see us as people who are cleverer than anyone else, or more qualified than anyone else. I just see two newly-weds who refused to accept things the way they were, who were determined to create the life of their dreams, and were committed to self-improvement along the way.
We did not start with money, and we didn’t have a business of our own. We didn’t qualify to emigrate, either, and nobody handed us anything on a plate. All we had was the determination to live the life we wanted to live.
I don’t say this in a bragging way at all. In fact, the only reason I mention it, is because I believe that anyone can create the life of their dreams. It may take a bit of time, but there is no reason it can’t be done. You just need to know what you want, and be determined to get there. The rest will work itself out along the way.
Give yourself permission to dream, and to dream big. And dare to believe that you can do whatever you set your mind to. Because you can do it. You can.
Today is the day I took my youngest son to the hospital for follow up blood and urine tests, as well as a visit with the kidney specialist.
I hadn’t realized how stressed I’ve been about this appointment, until I found myself unable to function on arriving home. Getting the kids’ lunch seemed an impossible task, and I was totally overwhelmed by the idea of having to do anything except sit in front of a TV screen for the rest of the afternoon.
My little one just wanted cuddles when we got back, too. Understandably I suppose, because the specialist we saw today, was one of the doctors who did the rounds every morning during his hospital stay. Maybe that’s why this routine appointment was more difficult than usual.
You see, last year my toddler fell ill, and he was sick to the point of death.
What initially presented as a tummy bug, later ended up with him being airlifted, on life support, to the Children’s Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand.
He had somehow contracted E.Coli 0157, and it nearly killed him.
After three trips to the hospital, the doctors there finally admitted him, and for the first night they just tried to re-hydrate him, but he could keep nothing down.
The next morning, he had a seizure, and blood tests showed that his potassium was very high, indicating that his kidneys were not working, and also putting his heart under strain. A small problem was that prior to the blood results coming back, he had been given about a liter or so of a saline drip, and as his kidneys couldn’t filter his blood and produce urine, the excess liquid made him swell considerably, and also ended up saturating his lungs.
At this point the Children’s Hospital were called, and while we waited for their team to fly down, my boy was taken to the ICU. The condition he had is called HUS (Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome). It is a condition in which the toxin that the E.Coli produces, turns the red blood cells into a mush. They in turn block the kidneys, which causes acute kidney failure.
When the flight doctors arrived, they put him under general anesthetic, and on to a ventilator. You see, the oxygen levels in his blood were going down due to his lungs having a lot of fluid in them, and at altitude that could potentially have been a huge problem. So it was decided to preempt this, and deal with it on the ground, rather than at thousands of feet up.
They also gave him a blood transfusion during the flight, because his hemoglobin was only 50 (should be at least 110), and he would be going into the Operating Theater as soon as we arrived. They thought he needed a few extra red blood cells in case he lost a bit of blood during the op. He had no red blood cells of his own left to lose.
Well, within two hours of being at the Children’s Hospital, my little one had had an operation to insert Tenckhoff catheters into his abdominal cavity, and he was put on dialysis. He then spent two nights in the Pediatric ICU before being transferred to the kidney ward.
Over our few weeks in hospital, my just turned two year-old spent two weeks having Peritoneal Dialysis. He had IV lines in every limb, arterial as well as venal, and a nasal gastric feeding tube. And he had six blood transfusions in total.
I will be forever in the debt of those who so graciously gave their blood. Those people, along with the doctors, saved my son. As the kidney specialist at the hospital told me, “This condition is fatal without treatment.”
So thank you. From the bottom of my heart; whoever you are.
Writing this, even a year on, still makes waterfalls of tears cascade down my cheeks, but really I am happy. Happy and grateful.
But, now that you have the nutshell version of my son’s story, let’s get back to the reason for telling it.
You see, I had a choice to make. And I must say, that my being generally an optimistic person, really helps here. But it’s something everyone can learn to do; to look for the good that comes out of something, rather than the bad.
I had been fearful. Fear, I will give Fear a capital letter and call it a ‘he. Fear was there with me. He told me that I would lose my son; that we were too late, and that my son was too far gone to recover. After my son’s seizure, when he was lying limp and pale on the bed, Fear told me that pretty soon I would never get to hold my son again, that we would be leaving the hospital without him; and that I would never again get to look into those bright blue eyes, in which I could see the whole universe. And I agreed. I agreed with what Fear was whispering into my ear.
But I didn’t let Fear have the upper hand. I decided to galvanize myself, and I told Fear, “Yes you are right. I don’t see how this is fixable.”
So mentally I said good bye to my son, my beautiful, cheeky, handsome, clever son, who I love so much. I accepted what Fear was telling me, but I also had a word or two for Fear. I told him that yes, while he was probably right that my son wouldn’t survive this, and that yes, while my heart would ache for the rest of my days, the rest of us would survive as a family. We would be devastated, but eventually we would find our new normal, and we would carry on no matter what; even with hearts torn open. And that in time, we would smile again.
The amazing thing was that with that, Fear packed his bags and left. And I had the strength to nurture and cherish, and be with my son for the ordeal of the next weeks. I was able to be strong, to not collapse in a heap and sit rocking backwards and forwards in the corner.
But I was also angry for a while. Angry that I had to take him to the emergency department three times before they would admit him. I knew that it wasn’t an ordinary gastro bug. It didn’t behave in the same way as any of the tummy bugs I’ve dealt with in the four children I have who are older than my toddler. But the doctors didn’t know this. And they don’t have the bond with a child, which he or she has with his mother, where you just know that there is something more serious going on.
Plus, annually, there are only fifteen cases of my son’s condition in the whole of New Zealand, which statistically works out to one case every four years in our local hospital, compared to the 120 children who are admitted locally each year, who need re-hydrating due to a tummy bug.
So, I decided to get over being angry.
What good would it have done anyway?
Instead, I decided to focus on the good which had come from the whole situation.
You might ask: “Is there any good to be found here?” And the answer is yes.
You see, from my boy’s suffering, and from me having to leave my husband and other kids home hundreds of miles away, came wonderment, and a change of values and direction.
My son is the youngest of five kids. And he gets plenty of attention, just as much as the others. But…he had never had me all to himself for a prolonged period of time. Now he had me to himself for almost three weeks. Three weeks where I just cuddled him, loved him, sang to him, and played with him as he was able. My husband left the other kids at home with his sister, and flew up to see us both for the day, and our little one had both of us to himself for a while. He really appreciated that, and is much more content since then.
I got to build such a bond with my son while we were there; one which I feel that nothing will break.
His concentration developed to such a degree that now, as a just turned three-year old, he spends hours learning to count, to write individual letters, and recognizes all the letters of the alphabet. He taught himself! I had nothing to do with it.
And he has become really outgoing.
But more importantly than all of these things, as a family we have changed direction. We have discovered what is important to us. And it’s not doing the usual nine to five. It is spending time with our kids, building memories with them, adventuring with them, traveling with them. playing with them, cuddling them. Memories and experiences with our beautiful kids are far more important to us now, than working to gather things and stuff.
Often as a species, we trudge on through life, surviving one day to the next, but our attitudes were reshaped. We are no longer surviving each day, getting through the school work (we home school), and letting our schedules run us. We have thrown out a lot of our junk, and have minimized the things that we absolutely have to do, so that we can enjoy life as a family, and live it on our own terms.
Because who knows, from one day to the next, when all this might change? I went from having a perfectly healthy boy, to one who was on death’s door, and it happened very quickly.
Things change, life changes, and sometimes a spanner gets thrown into the works. What matters, is making the most of every moment while we have it. When I get older, I won’t regret not working harder at my career, and making enough money to buy more stuff. But I will regret wasted opportunities with my kids, all while chasing the mighty dollar.
I think a change of direction in life is a pretty good thing to come out of all this. Along with a new appreciation for my husband and kids, and for living every moment to the full.
Of course, I wouldn’t wish my son or anybody else, to go through difficult times; I just chose to find the good in it all.
Do we all know someone, who no matter how hard they try, can’t seem to make a change in their life? Even though they want to make changes, it just doesn’t seem to happen for them.
Had you ever thought that it’s how they view themselves which is the problem?
One of the fifteen or so (not even kidding!) books I have on the go at the moment, is a book called The New Psycho-Cybernetics, by Maxwell Maltz, It was published in 1960, and so far it is absolutely brilliant. I’m pretty sure it will carry on being brilliant, too.
One of the things he talks about right at the beginning is this (this is a direct quote): “But you cannot escape it. You will always act and perform – and experience appropriate results – in accordance with what you imagine to be true about yourself and you environment. This is a basic and fundamental law of mind. It is the way we are built.”
Here’s an example:
I know a couple who are in their sixties, and who, through their own choices, have ended up in a situation where they do not have enough to live on, and are living with their adult daughter.
They don’t like living with their adult daughter, their son-in-law, and his son. Understandably. Everyone wants their independence, and doesn’t like to be reliant on others in order to be able to survive.
But, here’s the thing. They are trying every avenue they know, in order to be able to have a place of their own, and it just isn’t working out.
First, they found a job with accommodation. But obviously the house was tied to the job, and the job was a nightmare, so shortly after they moved out of their daughter’s and into the accommodation, they were packing back up and moving back to their daughter. They have looked at retirement housing, and even found a place they thought would suit them. But nothing came of it; it didn’t work out.
Purely and simply because of their self-image. They are acting in accordance with what they believe to be true about themselves and their environment.
Even though they are desperate to have their own place, and are running here, there and everywhere trying to find somewhere suitable, it is just not happening for them. And this is because in their heart of hearts they believe they will never be able to find a place and make it on their own. In their innermost being, they fear that they are stuck in a dependent state for ever. They really believe this about themselves. And so, no matter what they try in their desperation, it isn’t working, because what they know in their heart is that they are stuck where they are.
The last place they went to see looked great. But they failed to chase it up, and it doesn’t look as though that is happening for them either now. Why did they fail to chase it up? Because what they really believe about themselves and their environment, is that while they don’t want to be there, in reality they are stuck. And according to Maxwell Maltz, they are bound to act in a way that is according to their actual self-belief.
It’s self-sabotage of the highest order.
Do you know anyone like this? Someone who tries to get ahead, and may even succeed for a while, and then something happens and they are back to square one again. Why? Probably because what they actually believe is that no matter what they try, they just can’t succeed; just can’t get ahead. And they fear that they’ll be stuck the way they are forever. And that is how it pans out.
If any of us want to change our outward circumstances, we have to change what is going on inside of us. We have to change our self-image. Without an internal change, the external will never change. Or it may for a while, but then things will gravitate back to where they were originally, and we’ll find we have to start all over again.
So how about it? I’m sure we all have areas in our lives where self-image is affecting our results. I have one area which is glaringly obvious to me, and I now know how to change it. (The really cool thing is that I always end up preaching to myself when I write).
You know, it takes courage to re-program ourselves; to feel that we even deserve to think differently about ourselves. It takes real guts to make the changes and become a different person as a result, never to think about ourselves in the same way again; to throw off childhood issues and programming.
But we can do it! And we have to, if we want to see changes in our lives, because without that internal shift, the external circumstances will never change.
And I for one don’t want to stand still in life. I want to be improving, heading onwards and upwards all the time.
All of us face tough times in life. That goes without saying. They are inevitable, unavoidable. But it’s what we do with those times that counts, because there is no growth without change.
Some of us go through a loss, or financial difficulties. Maybe we suffer through unrequited love, divorce, or a long illness. There are a zillion and one things that constitute ‘tough times’.
But isn’t that the story of our life on this planet? From the whole process of actually being born, then growing and learning, to growing old and finally departing this earth, it’s a struggle.
I have no idea why we are all here, but for me, if I don’t end up a better person than I started out, then I haven’t done very well. And it’s our difficulties that educate us. They help us to discover strength we didn’t know we had. They push us to strive for more in our lives, and sometimes give us purpose in that we can help others who are going through something similar.
Tough times and difficulties are guaranteed. But will we rise to the challenge? Will we learn from these things, and become better people because of them? Better than who we were before?
Last year, my son nearly died. It was tough, and both my husband and I pretty much collapsed in a heap six months later, once he was doing well and we could relax a bit. But, we came out of that experience with a brand new appreciation for living every moment to the full. We emerged with a drive to create memories with our kids, and go adventuring with them, rather than just working to collect things and stuff. We discovered that we take our longevity for granted, and that actually we are not in control, and we experienced the fact that it could all be gone tomorrow. We are better people for it.
Through that and other experiences, I have discovered strength I didn’t know I had. I found that I can endure grief and loss, depression and darkness. When I was younger, I pulled myself through the grief that was threatening to swallow me up, and I made it.
From nothing my husband and I have created the life we have today. We have drive and determination that we wouldn’t have, without those difficult experiences that threatened to crush our souls. We have developed loyalty, integrity, commitment, compassion, empathy, creativity, love, gratitude, perseverance and a hundred other things, precisely because we’ve had struggles in our lives.
I am definitely at a point in my life where I can say that for me personally, I consider those struggles to be good. Without them, I would not be who I am today, and I am pretty happy with the way I turned out. I am at peace with myself.
There is no growth without struggle. A caterpillar never gets to fly as a butterfly unless it struggles out of the chrysalis first. Neither does a seed ever turn into fruit without a part of it dying so that something new can grow from it.
Struggle and change are part of life. Our choice is whether to resist and fight it, or to embrace and go with it, seeing it as a catalyst for our growth. Here’s to growth from change!