Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year's Resolutions


Back in the days before I owned a computer and a mobile phone, I used to store all of my personal information; phone numbers, addresses, etc, in my Diary/Organiser, which, for those of the younger generation, was actually a book in which all entries were made by hand, with a pen. (Gasp!)

Each year, when I began my new Diary/Organiser, I would start out writing everything in my very best handwriting. Unlike today’s electronic data storage methods, there was no delete button. A paper-based phone book would usually end up full of crossed-out entries because people kept changing addresses and phone numbers.

The trouble is, of course, that as the days wore on I would often find myself needing to write something down in a hurry – an address or phone number entered hastily before it was forgotten. Remember, in the days before mobile phones you either had to write it down as they told it to you, or write it on a piece of paper to be entered into the phone book later – you couldn’t just ask them to text it to you!

So, before I knew it, my lovely neat new Diary/Organiser, would be sporting all these scribbly bits that looked so untidy and sometimes, on rereading at a later date, meant nothing to me at all. So what on earth was supposed to happen at 1.30pm, Wednesday? And this phone number? Who does it belong to? Why didn’t I think to write a name beside it?

It was almost a relief to get to the end of the year so that I could buy a new Diary/Organiser and start all over again.

Keeping my personal data is so much easier these days. I don’t need to buy a new data base each year because it is so much easier to update the old one without all those messy cross-outs.

Sadly there is no technology available to update and upgrade our lives. There is no delete button. We still have to use the cross-out system. We can’t even get a new version each year and start afresh; we are confined to working with the same old one we’ve had since the day we were born. And boy, can it ever get messy and untidy?

Still, I guess that’s why we have the New Year Resolution. Each year we tell ourselves we are going to try to wipe the slate clean and start again.

Of course it’s not always very successful. We always end up with those scribbly bits – hasty decisions, words spoken in anger, moments of selfishness. But we have to try. We always have to try.

New Year Resolutions are a very personal thing, just like a Diary/Organiser. I’m not going to divulge mine and I don’t expect you to divulge yours. I’m just going to wish you the best of luck with whatever changes you’re hoping to make – and a very happy, safe and prosperous New Year.

©Lyn Murphy 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Greetings


It's Christmas again! The mailbox is overflowing with Christmas Catalogues. Every store is offering special Christmas bargains. We are besieged with information about how we need to show our loved ones just how much we care by buying them a 103 cm Plasma TV or a diamond ring costing $7,000. 

The Christmas hype is a part of our society. There is such a build up – the Christmas parties, the buying of gifts, the shopping for enough food to feed a small army. The opening line in most conversations is likely to be ‘So – are you all prepared for Christmas?’ And the next most common statement you are likely to hear at this time of year would have to be ‘I will be so glad when it’s all over!’

Every year it’s the same. The world goes crazy at Christmas time. Many stores are only closed for the one day, and yet, from the frenzied activity leading up to that day, you would swear that they were closing for a month. Everyone has a headache, sore feet, aching arms from carrying all those bags and everyone is short tempered and tired.

Of course the children are beside themselves with excitement. Even those who no longer believe in the jolly fat man in his red suit will be tingling with glorious anticipation of opening up their presents on Christmas morning. The latest IPod, IPhone, Xbox, PlayStation. Gone are the days when Grandma can get away with a box of hankies and a bag of Christmas lollies like my Grandmother did for me. 

And then it finally arrives – Christmas Day in all its glory. The children descend on their presents with frantic glee and, within minutes some one is crying. Something doesn’t work. It’s the wrong colour/size/model. Someone stepped on it/sat on it/ just plain deliberately broke it.

Then the relatives arrive and the real fun begins. The boys get into a dust up within minutes. Your son says it was Billy who started it, but of course Billy says it was your boy and everyone always seems to believe what Billy says. 

Aunty A gets a bit put out because no one comments on her potato salad. But everyone knows that if they do, Aunty B will get all upset and think they are referring to the one time she decided to bring the potato salad – and the potatoes were still half-raw. Uncle G gets drunk, as usual, and starts making suggestions to every female in the room under the age of 85. Eventually Uncle C has had enough and threatens to take him outside. 

 One of the kids throws up all over the bathroom floor. Your cat scratches your sisters little girl all down one side of her face, which earns you a rebuke for having such a vicious animal around where the children can get at it – never mind that the little dear was actually dragging the cat out from under your bed by it’s tail!!!

Eventually the day is over and everyone has gone home, leaving you with your house looking like a bomb site. And you swear, next year, you will pack a picnic lunch and go to the beach.
So why then, when I was faced with the likelihood that it would just be my husband and me for this Christmas – no fuss, no extra expense, no family dramas – did I feel a wee bit sad? When people asked me if I was all ready for Christmas, and I told them we weren’t really going to bother with it all this year – why did it make me feel so heavy of heart? It’s just another day, for goodness sake.

But then I got an email from a dear friend who invited us to spend Christmas Day with her and her family – and suddenly I understood. It’s all about feeling like a part of something.

It’s that look you exchange with a total stranger as you stand behind your overflowing trolley in the endless supermarket queue – the rolls of Christmas wrapping paper and the giant frozen turkey. The look that says ‘Don’t you hate it all this? Won’t you be so glad when it’s all over for another year?’

Yes, we hate it, and we can’t wait for it to be over, but we seem to need it. It’s one of those things like going out on Saturday night when you’re a teenager. Most of the time all you end up with an empty wallet and a splitting headache – but if you have to stay at home, for whatever reason, you feel somehow cheated.

May this Christmas be the one when everything goes just as you planned. When the kids just love their presents and the relatives all manage to get along with each other. When everyone has a really great time and they even stay around long enough to help you clean up the mess afterwards.

Merry Christmas and very happy, safe and prosperous New Year. 
©Lyn Murphy 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Builder

I am quite new to web design – still wearing my L plates if you know what I mean.

I found myself having to design a new web store from the ground up – because my original store was built on a server which really couldn’t provide the customisation options required for a business operating mainly in Australia.

I thought my past experience, with building the original web site, plus my Blog and also my Affiliate site would certainly count for something; that I should be able to do it without too much trouble. What I didn’t understand was that I had been working with fairly elaborate template based web builders – basically I just entered the information and the software did all the hard work. But my previous server did not allow me to download my previous pages as a complete package and simply upload it to a new site. No – I had to start from scratch, and I suddenly realized just how much I DIDN’T know about this whole E-Commerce thing.

Oh yes, I tried the pre built templates – but they were either ridiculously expensive, or just way too cheap and nasty. And the instructions were all written in some geek speak that I couldn’t make head nor tail of anyhow.

But I thought I had a fairly brilliant idea – I would download the pages from my previous site and use them as a template for the basic structure. At least it gave me something to work with – something vaguely familiar, which might keep me from feeling totally overwhelmed by the project I had undertaken.

I was going along great guns, churning out reasonable-looking completed pages and feeling fairly proud of my progress. But then, suddenly, the wheels fell off completely.

My pages began to distort. Text and images would appear outside of the page borders. Sections of my page would reject any formatting that I attempted to apply. The more I tried to fix it, the worse it seemed to get.
Eventually I decided to try to edit the HTML code directly – even though I admit my knowledge in this area is very sketchy. But as soon as I started to look at the HTML code, I could see what had happened.

It seems that HTML is a bit like a computer hard disk. You install heaps of different programs and applications and then, later, you uninstall the same – but, unless you know how to edit the registry, you often end up with lots of leftover bits. Eventually all this accumulated rubbish begins to take a toll on the computer. It slows down – develops errors and in many cases the only fix is a complete reinstall of your operating system.

Now when I built my first web store I really had no idea what I was doing. I made so many mistakes and spent hours correcting them and I guess, all the while, I was leaving bits and pieces behind in the code. Then I downloaded the whole mess and uploaded it, bugs and all, into the editor for my new web site – after which I proceeded to make more mistakes and more corrections.

Finally my poor overloaded editing program had a hissy fit and quit on me. All I could do was to delete the whole ugly mess and start all over again.

Well, thankfully I succeeded this time. My new web site is up and running. It’s a bit basic in design, but it works, and that’s the main thing right now. I can always tizz it up as I go.

But there is always a life lesson to learned along the way, isn’t there! For instance – how many times have I tried to do that – to build something new in my life on the foundation of past mistakes?

We like to stick with the familiar, don’t we? That’s why it’s so hard to break old habits – because it’s scary to let go and launch ourselves into the unfamiliar. We prefer to use the same old tools and yet we expect to get different results.

The thing is we will never really get something new when we use the old stuff as a template. We will just get a rehash of what we had before. And if it wasn’t good enough the first time, then why would we even want that?

Sometimes we just have to be brave and throw it all out – all the old wrong attitudes, the emotional scars and baggage that we’ve ‘downloaded’ from our past into our present. If we want to succeed at building something new, then we need to start afresh. Oh yes, we might still make a few mistakes, but at least we won’t be just compounding the old ones.
©Lyn Murphy2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Celebrating Life


I’m celebrating!

Why? Because this morning I woke up to realize that there are many, many people waking up to the knowledge that the late night visit by the Police was not just a horrible dream: that a loved one has been cruelly taken from them – a road accident, a mugging, a cold blooded murder.

And while my heart aches for those people, it also rejoices because I wasn’t one of them!

There are people today who will discover that they, or some one very close to them, has a terminal illness. They thought they would have plenty of time for all the things they planned to do together.

There are people today who will finally realize that they can no longer live with the constant tension and strife in their marital home. People who will be destroyed by the knowledge that their husband/wife/significant other has been cheating/is about to leave them.

Many people will learn today that they have lost their job and the future will loom so full of uncertainty. How will they ever afford the mortgage payments/the rent/the car payments/the school fees?

Mothers will greet newborns bearing hideous disfigurements. Children will be molested. Fathers will have heart attacks. Houses will catch fire and burn to the ground destroying a lifetime of precious memories.

I’m sad for those people and the tragedies they will endure/are enduring. But I’m celebrating because none of this is happening to me.

My family is all safe and very much alive. My husband loves me. My job is secure for the moment. There will be enough to money to pay the bills and buy food.

Oh I don’t know what might be waiting for me around the corner. But for now I will count my blessings and enjoy every one of them – just in case I’m not quite so fortunate tomorrow. I don't want to ever be one of those people who never knew what they had until they lost it.
©Lyn Murphy 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010

Don't Lead With Your Head


I’ve been doing the rounds, reading other people’s blogs, and every now and then I come across one that really gets me thinking. Like one I read the other day about a person who loved to dance, and yet resisted the urge because others had rather disparaging things to say about his style. See, he made a habit of asking his friends for validation – ‘so how did I look out there on the dance floor?’

And let’s face it; if you lead with your head, you often get your face kicked in.

I remember once, in one of those very tender moments, I asked the man in my life ‘Do you love me?’ He said ‘Yes, but not as much as I have loved other women!’ Ouch.

Now he felt he was just being honest. I felt as though he had stuck a knife in my heart.

I happen to be a sensitive person who picks up on the feelings of others quite easily. If the dancing dude had asked me how he looked out there on the dance floor, even if I thought he looked a bit like a windmill in a cyclone, I would have found a way not to totally crush his ego. I might have said something like ‘Well you certainly seem to enjoy dancing.’

It’s a pity we so often seem to feel the need for validation. But it’s even more of a pity when the people we turn to for reassurance seem compelled to shoot us down in flames. No I don’t advocate telling outright lies to spare other people’s feelings. Surely we can all just think before we speak?

Along the same lines, I read another blog where the writer cautioned that we should never share our ‘big ideas’ with family and friends. Why? Because often the response you get will be something like this: ‘Oh goodness. That will never work!’ Talk about bursting the bubble?

If you asked those people why they would say something so negative, you can be sure they would respond by telling you that they just didn’t want to see you hurt and disappointed. And that is probably true. But what about the people who told Henry Ford that his designs would never work, or the people who scorned Christopher Columbus when he said that he could sail right around the world and not fall off the edge?

Maybe your ideas seem a little ‘over-the-top’ but you could be just the person to make them reality. The most important factor is the ability to believe in yourself and not to rely so heavily on the opinions of others.

The fact that the friends of the dancing dude didn’t like his style certainly didn’t mean that he should give up dancing. That my man didn’t think of me as the love of his life doesn’t mean that I am somehow less of a person. That some one close to me doesn’t think I can achieve my dreams and goals in life doesn’t mean I will certainly fail.
©Lyn Murphy 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Where to Draw the Line?


As part of a course I was doing, it was recommended that I read a book called Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. In one chapter, Mr Hill tells the story of a man named Darby who got caught up in the fever of the gold rush days. After much backbreaking work Darby actually unearthed a vein of gold.

Now he would need machinery to mine the gold, so he went back home and told his relatives and neighbours of his find. They got together the money for the needed machinery and then Darby and his uncle returned to work their claim.

At first the returns were quite amazing and it seemed they might just have one of the richest mines in Colorado. In fact just a few more cars of ore and they would be able to clear their debts and begin to realize a profit.

Then suddenly the vein of ore disappeared. They continued to drill, desperate to find it again, but, finally, they admitted defeat.

Darby managed to sell all of his equipment to a junk man and then he and his uncle caught the train home.
The junk man, however, called in a mining engineer to look at the mine and do a reassessment. The engineer advised that the vein of gold would be found just THREE FEET FROM WHERE THE DARBYS HAD STOPPED DRILLING.

Can you imagine how Darby must have felt when he found out? He went home still owing his relatives and friends for the money he borrowed for the machinery, and it took him many years to pay off his loans. Yet if he had just persisted a little longer – just another three feet of digging - he would have found the mother lode.

The moral of this story, of course, is not to give up on your dreams. I suppose that’s the big difference between those who succeed in this life and those who don’t – the ability to keep on keeping on.

However I need to know where do you draw the line? How far do you go with pursuing your dream before you admit defeat? In hindsight, it is easy for us to shake our heads and say how unfortunate it is that Darby didn’t press on for that extra three feet and claim the untold riches awaiting him.

Then again, what if Darby had continued drilling, plunging himself further and further into debt, and never actually finding that elusive vein of ore? We would have said what a fool he was to persist in chasing rainbows.

I would hate to be known as the person who stopped three feet short of my mother lode. But I would also hate to be known as some one who was so obsessed with an idea that I lost sight of everything else of value in my life.
©Lyn Murphy 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Learning From My Mistakes


Earlier this year we made a big decision. We decided it was time to explore our options as far as earning an income. While we are managing okay with our current cleaning business, we are not getting any younger and we are not sure just how long we can continue with our current workload. So we decided to branch out into the world of E-commerce: to see if we could make money by way of an online store.

Now I did what I thought was adequate research before I committed us to any particular path. But the truth is we were green as grass and had no idea what we were doing, which made us easy targets for the scammers. How can you possibly distinguish truth from fiction without any kind of yardstick against which to measure it?

Yes, I got scammed. I spent money on a couple of schemes which, despite hours of work and frustration, have never earned me a cent. In fact all I ended up with was an inbox full of spam and a string of phone calls from people trying to sign me up for even more fraudulent scams.

Thankfully I am, by nature, a very cautious person. Because of this the damage to our finances was limited and we still have one iron in the fire – an online store selling waterproof digital cameras, which could well turn out to be a viable business. But there was a period of time in which I was very angry with myself. How could I have been so stupid and gullible – to let myself be taken in like that? As if we can afford to throw money down the drain that way?

Yet, in the last few weeks as we have finally gotten our website up and running, I have had to revise my opinions. After all, without those earlier failed attempts, I wouldn’t have learned the basics of writing HTML codes, a knowledge which has come very much handy with this venture. And, without those previous attempts, I wouldn’t have known how to promote our site by submitting it to the various Search Engines. I wouldn’t have known the value of writing articles and blogs in order to get my name ‘out there’ on the Internet – to gain a small following that I can now invite to visit our new site.

In other words, my past mistakes are proving to be a very valuable tool for shaping my future opportunities at success.

Of course there is a lesson to be learned from this. I often find myself momentarily overwhelmed by a sense of regret when I think back over my past life and the many, very foolish mistakes I have made. If only I had done it all a little differently. If only I had thought a little harder and longer before I launched myself into the making of life changing decisions.

But the truth is that I did what I thought was right at the time. I really only learned the error of my ways afterwards – and then it was too late. All I could do was to take the things I learned from those mistakes and try to use that knowledge to go forward. Just like I’m doing now.

©Lyn Murphy 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How to Have a Happy Life


There was a poster on the wall of the Office I cleaned this morning. It was entitled “How to Have a Happy Life”. Now I didn’t have time to actually stop and read it, but a couple of lines caught my eye.

I gather the sentiments expressed on the poster were penned by a Vet – a piece of advice on how to have a happy life based on the example of the behaviour of man’s best friend – the dog.

One of the sentences which really jumped out at me was something along the lines of this:-
Always rush to meet your friends and family with undisguised joy and affection. Never be afraid to let them know how happy you are to see them.

It’s so true, isn’t it? Our doggie friends will bound to greet us with unabashed enthusiasm – even if we have only been gone for an hour. They never meet us at the gate and launch into a tirade about how we left them home alone all day, or how we obviously forgot to bring home their favourite snacks yet again. All they really care about is that we are home with them once again.

Another of the lines said something about taking every opportunity to frolic in the fresh air and sunshine. Have you ever watched a dog when he is released to go for a run? The animal is almost beside itself with excitement – rushing hither and thither exploring, sniffing, trying to take in everything at once. And no matter how many times you take the dog for a walk, along the same path, he will do the same thing. He will never stop and sit on his haunches and yawn because he is bored with the same old, same old.

The last little gem of wisdom I gleaned from this hastily scanned poster was a sentence about allowing people to touch you. Dogs, in general, loved to be touched. They will come and push their velvety noses into your hand to get a pat, or plant their head in your lap and look up into your face with those big brown eyes until you give in. They are not in the least ashamed to come and beg for attention when they feel the need for it, just as they are never hesitant to give their undivided attention to you.

I’m not actually a dog lover. I don’t intend to start launching myself at my husband when he comes home and furiously licking his face, or galloping along the footpath sniffing the bushes. But maybe I could be a little less inhibited in my enjoyment and enthusiasm for life and my loved ones.

How about you?

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Me I Used to Be


There I was doing my most unglamorous Tuesday morning job of sweeping the leaves and the cigarette butts from the sidewalk, wearing my most unglamorous cleaners outfit – and she strode by all long legs, gleaming blonde tresses and youthful beauty.

For a moment there I was overwhelmed by a sense of loss. I will never look like that again – with smooth, unlined skin unmarked by the ravages of time. Even if I lost the fifteen or so extra kilos I’ve managed to acquire since the days of my youth, I would never be able to look good in short skirts and form fitting shirts. All I could ever hope to achieve would be to look like ‘mutton dressed up as lamb’.

But then, in the midst of my sudden depression, it occurred to me that even back in those long gone days when I was still young and glowing with the radiance of my youth – I never really found much solace in the state of my being.

I found myself thinking that I really wasted so much of my life. I was so busy fretting about things that I see now were of little consequence in the overall scheme of things. I was always in such a hurry to get on with things. To finish school. To leave home. To get married. I never just took the time to revel in being young.

Then it occurred to me that I might still live for another twenty years or more. Things certainly won’t get any better with regard with wrinkles and sagging body parts, that’s for sure. So, in ten, or fifteen years time, I will be looking back on today as ‘the good old days’. As I shuffle along with my walking frame, I will probably be thinking that at least, back then, I could still cope with demands of my cleaning job.

As I said, I felt as though I squandered the opportunities of my youth by being in such a rush to move forward. The last thing I want to do is waste the opportunities of the present by lamenting what is now in the past.

My family and friends don’t see me in terms of my age, or how many wrinkles I have. To them I am just ‘me’ and they love me accordingly. Maybe I need to learn to love and appreciate the me I am now rather than to long for the me I used to be.
©Lyn Murphy 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010


Thursday is usually my Blog Day; the day when I seem to feel most inspired to write a new post. However last Thursday came and went without so much as a Cameo appearance by my Muse. I sat and stared at a blank page. I even wrote a paragraph or two, which I promptly deleted. I just didn’t seem to have anything to say.

However, Saturday was that ‘One Day in September’ which is so special to all fans of Aussie Rules Football - the day when the Grand Final was played. It was to be a battle between Collingwood and St Kilda – neither of which team is of any great importance in our household as Pete is a fan of Carlton and I’m really not all interested in football. Still, Pete was definitely cheering for St Kilda because, he told me, no one likes Collingwood. In fact, he went on to say, apart from the actual Collingwood supporters themselves, everyone else HATES the team.

I asked him why and he immediately began to tell me how they are such ‘dirty’ players, so cocky and arrogant, and, apparently, totally without any redeeming qualities at all. And I found myself remembering another life in which I lived in a household of Essendon fans. At least once during each football season there would be a match between Essendon and Carlton and the menfolk would be glued to the TV. I would hear them yelling at the Umpire every time a decision went Carlton’s way. Each time there was any bodily contact which resulted in an Essendon player ending up on the ground, I would hear them expounding their opinions of the ‘dirty’ tactics employed by Carlton. And, if Essendon lost the match, it was always because the Umpire had favoured Carlton and not because Carlton had actually been the better team on the day.

Nowadays it is all the other way around. When Essendon and Carlton play against each other it is Essendon who are the dirty players and who get all the breaks from the Umpire.

And it suddenly occurred to me that it is all about where you happen to be standing. Are you over with the Blues (Carlton) or are you standing with the Bombers (Essendon) fans?

It follows on from there to ask if Collingwood really are a team deserving of the hatred of the masses, or if this is just another statement coloured by a particular perspective?

Most of our beliefs and philosophies in life are taught to us by our predecessors. Pete’s father was a strong Carlton supporter and Pete grew up believing that the Blue’s were THE team. In the same way, my son, Aaron, grew up believing that Essendon were the only decent team in the AFL. It would be very hard for either of them to change their allegiance to another team. And, if during a match, Pete saw a Carlton player smack one of the opposing team players in the mouth, it would be easier for him to believe that the Carlton player was unduly provoked, rather than to believe he had actually employed ‘dirty’ tactics.

Of course this phenomenon is not confined to Australian Rules Football, or even to sport in general. It is something that spans almost every aspect of our lives. We see things as we have been conditioned to see them.

Oh, for those who don’t know already, the Grand Final was a draw. That means it will be replayed next Saturday and Collingwood can get to feel the love, and the hate, all over again.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Happily Ever After


And they lived happily ever after!

Isn’t that the way the fairy tales usually end? Cinderella – Sleeping Beauty – Snow White – they all had to overcome some major obstacles in their lives. Wicked step mothers, ugly step sisters – enslavement, banishment, attempted murder, even drug induced comas that lasted for one hundred years. Yet, at the end of it all, the beautiful princesses got to ride off into the sunset with their handsome princes, to a magical place where they lived out the rest of their lives in absolute bliss.

Of course, as adults, we don’t believe in fairy tales. Yet we still love those feel good movies and novels where, despite a million-and-fifty reasons as to why the relationship in question could never work out, they still end up together. We still heave a sigh of relief when they rush into each other’s arms for that final, long, passionate kiss before the credits start to roll.

Deep down, I suppose we all realize that the fairy tale princesses and the characters in the movies and the novels are all very one-dimensional. Their lives consist of a plot in which they are faced with a challenge. Once this challenge is overcome, they are rewarded by receiving the object of their desires.

It’s hard to discover that real life doesn’t work that way. On numerous occasions I have been the shoulder-to-cry on for friends who were in the midst of some great drama in their lives. I’ve heard them wail
‘All I want is to be happy. Is that too much to ask? I just want to be happy!’

But sometimes it seems to me that we tend to think of ‘happiness’ as a destination. It’s that kingdom where the princesses are living out their joyous existences with their handsome princes. They had to go through quite a bit to get there, but, once they did, they could stay forever.

The sad truth is that happiness is more about choice. It’s true that it’s easier to feel ‘happy’ when circumstances are favourable. But the people to be envied the most are the ones who manage to be happy in the face of all adversity. They are the ones who realize that their lives may never be magically transformed into something wonderful; that they might never get to escape the ugly, imprisoning, dangerous things in their world. And yet they still manage to find contentment, and cause for celebration, in the simple, everyday routines of living – because they make a choice to do so.
©Lyn Murphy 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Just Say It


When I’m not Blogging, I’m a cleaner. One of my main jobs is a large public housing complex in the city and I work there four-days-a-week, Monday through Thursday.

Today I was having a really hard time. I have a problem with my right hip which flares up every now and then. I don’t have a label for the complaint, but that doesn’t make it hurt any the less. And it’s Thursday, which means I had five staircases, each consisting of three flights, to mop. 

Believe me, by the time I was finished I was really in pain. All I wanted to do was to lug that mop bucket back to the cleaner’s cupboard and head for home.

A young man came down the stairs carrying a couple of garbage bags. He was heading for the small yard housing the rubbish bins and I had to stand aside to let him past. 

Let me point out here that this housing complex caters to those in the lower income bracket. Many of the people there are unemployed and unemployable. There are some with mental health issues, substance abuse problems, and those who exhibit extremely anti social behaviours. I never make a habit of initiating conversation, or even eye contact, unless it is with a long term resident with whom I’ve established some kind of acquaintanceship. 

This young man was new to me. He was scruffy and unkept and I heard the clink of empty bottles in the bags he was carrying. So I kept my eyes on the ground.

‘Thank you for mopping my doorstep,’ he said as he went by.

I looked up in surprise, and he flashed me a smile.

‘It’s all part of my job’ I told him and he nodded.

‘Well that’s as may be,’ he responded. ‘But I really appreciate it.’

His words may not have eased the pain in my hip, but they certainly brightened my day. 

As a cleaner I am used to being taken for granted. I’m supposed to get in there and do my job with a minimum of fuss and fanfare. The only time a cleaner is usually noticed is when they get it wrong. 

But the young man at the housing complex noticed I had mopped his doorstep and he thought he should say thank you – so he did. And the next time someone does something for me – even if it is just part of their job, I will remember to say ‘thank you’, and to let them know that their efforts are appreciated. 
©Lyn Murphy 2010

Thursday, September 2, 2010

One Step at a Time


When my step-daughter, Allison, was small, it was quite a feat to get her to sit at the table long enough to eat a meal. She was always so full of energy – with the concentration span of a goldfish. But her father would sit there and patiently encourage her to eat just a little bit more – another four mouthfuls and then she could leave the table.

Allison would heave massive sighs and wiggle about on her chair, and she would load up her fork with the smallest possible amount of food – but eventually she would be able to proudly report 

‘I did it, Daddy! I ate four mouthfuls.’

Her Dad would tell her she was such a good girl and that she was doing so well. But then, while she was still beaming at his praise, he would add

‘Now just three more mouthfuls and you can go to play!’

Strangely enough Allison never seemed to wise up. She would sigh and wiggle, but she would keep spooning up the food. The three would become two, and the two would become one, and sometimes the one would even go on for three or four times more, just until the plate was completely clean.

At the time I used to wonder how on earth he managed to have so much patience with her. Every mealtime became a marathon event and it drove me nuts having to sit there and watch her go through the same routine each time. But, I had to admit it worked. 

Faced with a plate of food, even if it was only a very small serving, Allison seemed to feel overwhelmed. The thought of being forced to sit in that chair for an extended period of time was enough to kill off any appetite she may have had. But, when her father broke the process down into just a few more mouthfuls – it suddenly seemed a lot less daunting. She was still going to eat the same amount of food. She was still going to be sitting at the table for the same amount of time. But, because it was all presented to her in small steps, she felt able to work her way through it – one mouthful at a time. 

Now I am a cleaner. Being a bit past the first flush of youth, I often find the physical demands of my job can really take a toll. Sometimes, just the thought of five staircases to mop can be enough to drain the energy from my body. In the mornings, just stopping to think about all that I have to accomplish during the course of the day will make me want to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head.

But I’ve learned to break down my workload into ‘one-mouthful-at-a-time’. I keep telling myself that all I have to do is just keep plugging along and eventually it will all be done and I can go home. Each time I feel the energy levels dropping – each time I begin to feel a bit overwhelmed, I remind myself that there’s only one more bathroom to clean and a couple of floors to mop. Or I only have to finish vacuuming this area and dust all the blinds and I’m done. 

At the end of my working day, I often look back and think to myself ‘Well, that wasn’t so bad after all, was it? I still did the same amount of work. It took me just as long to do it. But, by breaking down the mountain into molehills I made it seem so much less daunting. 

Try it sometime. It really does work.

As a footnote, Allison is now a very successful Chef and she recently catered for a function at which the Governor of South Australia was a guest. She now makes a living from playing with food. LOL.
©Lyn Murphy2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Be An E.G.


They were playing in the back yard – the two little girls who lived in the house directly behind mine.

‘Let’s play mothers and fathers,’ suggested one as I pegged my washing on the line. ‘I’ll be the mother and you can be the Dad. And he (the dog I presume) can be the kid, okay?’

This agreed upon, she immediately launched into her role.

‘I have to do every bleep thing around this place. I’ve hardly had a wink of sleep for days with this bleep squawking brat of a kid of yours and you can’t even get off your bleep and give me a hand to clean up this pig sty of a bleep house’

Don’t talk to me like that you bleep bleep’ rallied the other girl ‘You sit around on your bleep bleep and do nothing every day of the week while I have to go to work. The least you can bleep do is take care of the baby and clean the bleep house.’

‘What the bleep is going on out here you two?’ demanded the real Mum, as she burst out into the yard. ‘If I catch you using that language again I’ll wash both your mouths out with bleep soap. Where do you pick up this stuff anyway? ‘

Where indeed? 

Those little girls had grown up believing that this was how married people interacted – because this was the example set for them by their parents. How many times had we quietly gone back into the house rather than listen to another of the screaming matches from over the back fence?

Why didn’t the mother recognise her own voice, and the voice of her husband, in the role playing of her daughters? It was obviously easier to imagine their little minds had been corrupted by the behaviour of other children at their school.

The children were learning, by the example of their parents, that the way to make their thoughts and opinions known was to launch a verbal attack. There was no need for tact and diplomacy, no need for respect or concern for the feelings of the other person. Just open up your mouth and let all the frustrations erupt like a flow of red hot lava.

Of course I understand that the behaviour of my neighbours was probably the result of the example shown to them by their own parents. That’s how it goes, doesn’t it? We all pass on what we’ve learned – both the good and the bad.

I suppose there are some of us who truly never realize our faults. But, for most of us, we know! We get that momentary glimpse of ourselves as others might see us; we hear the whining, the impatience, the rudeness in our voice, and we feel a stab of guilt. But then we justify, don’t we?

Well what about the things he/she said to me?

We are all quick to pounce of the well known celebrities who have managed to have their indiscretions plastered all over the newspaper headlines yet again. Don’t they understand that they are the role models for our young people? Surely they have an obligation to moderate their behaviour accordingly?

Well I might not have millions of adoring fans hanging on my every word. The masses might not care what I’ll be wearing the next time I appear in public. And no one is offering me big money to write my autobiography. But there are still people who fall inside my sphere of influence; people who can be touched and affected by the things I say and the things I do.

I need to be an E.G. -an example. I can’t change the world on any great scale. But I can stop and listen to myself sometimes when I’m speaking, especially if I’m angry or upset. I can read the emails I’m about to post off to friends – and the posts I’m about to put up on Facebook, or the messages I’ll text on my phone. I can ask myself how I’d feel if someone else had said or written those things. Would I find them rude or churlish – derogatory or insulting? And if I would, then perhaps it’s better to wait until I have something positive and constructive to say, or to write.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Looking Good


I used to work in a Call Centre. We (my colleagues and I) spent our work day sitting at our desk, answering phone calls and completing related clerical duties. We had no face-to-face contact with the public or with any of the other departments within our organization.

So why, we often asked, were we required to wear Office Attire Would it be so terrible if we fronted up for work wearing our favorite jeans and sneakers? No one ever saw us apart from the other members of the Call Center staff.

It didn’t matter whether our customers could see us or not, we were told. We needed to present as professionals, and our ability to do that was influenced both by our environment and by our frame of mind. The way we felt about ourselves would reflect in the tone of our voice on the phone. Actually, even something as simple as whether we sat up straight, or slouched, in our chair, would affect the way we spoke to our customers –we could sound bright and friendly, or sullen and disinterested. I guess we didn’t really believe the things they were telling us – not until Pajama Day.

Working in an Inbound Call Center can be an extremely stressful job and there is always a very high turnover of staff. One of the ways in which the companies attempt to boost morale is to hold frequent ‘special days’ – some fun event to promote, and build, team spirit. The Pajama Day was one of those occasions.

We were all invited to wear our Pajamas at work. There was a prize on offer for the Best Pajamas, so naturally the more outgoing staff members went ‘all out’. We had ladies with curlers in their hair and even one who wore a startling green beauty mask treatment. We lounged at our desks in Pajamas, robes and slippers and there was a seemingly endless supply of toast, English Muffins, tea and coffee, supplied by Management (to be consumed during breaks of course). The atmosphere was fun and frivolous and everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time.

Yet, by mid morning there was not one person still wearing their pajamas. Quite early in the piece, people started to mention how difficult it was to deal with the complex problems. Suddenly it seemed as though our bodies and our minds had lapsed into Relaxation Mode. When faced with a belligerent caller, we found ourselves intimidated and upset, rather than being able to employ the techniques taught to us for the handling of such situations.

For me personally the responses I offered to customer queries seemed to be lacking in authority. I felt as though they could actually see me – sitting there in my Pajamas – and I was sure they were thinking of hanging up and calling back in the hope of getting a REAL Customer Service Advisor.

As soon as I changed into my Office Attire, I noticed an immediate difference in the way I fielded the calls. I was back in the driver’s seat, confident and competent and I’m sure if my calls were monitored that day, there would have been a noticeable difference in the way I presented to my customers.

From this experience I learned a valuable lesson. Looking your best is not necessarily about just trying to impress others. It’s also about your ATTITUDE towards YOURSELF. And your attitude towards yourself really DOES affect the way you interact with others.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Attitude Matters


As I was driving home a few days ago I found myself following a car with a slogan emblazoned across the back window in large, red letters. It said 'Don't Care!'

In today's world, it's easy to understand why people might feel this way. Every day we are bombarded with negativity via the television and newspapers – stories of war and natural disasters; threats of economic collapse and acts of terrorism.

Reports claim that more and more people are suffering from stress related illnesses. With untold numbers of businesses folding like an origami class, the only ones making a killing seem to be the Pharmaceutical companies, through the sales of the medications specifically designed to combat depression and anxiety disorders. So many people are just giving up. What's the point? All I'm doing is beating my head against the wall - making myself more stressed and anxious. Why bother?

But the ‘Don’t Care’ Attitude, rather than making things easier, only contributes to the downhill slide.
In fact it actually helps to smooth the way and make things happen even faster.

I confess that I have never been a fan of those so called 'Self Help' books. The ones with Titles like ‘You Are a Winner’ and ‘You Can Do It’. But in fact the philosophy contained in these books is for real.

Practise Positivity!

Now I know that even those two words can invoke a very adverse reaction. We’ve all met that perpetually sunny soul who breezes into the darkest moment of your life sprouting messages of The Silver Lining in Every Cloud, and how this traumatic event in your life is only going to make you a better person etc etc.

Yet a positive attitude is one of the most basic survival tools.

Last year my husband was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery. For twelve months he had been assured that his symptoms were caused by a hernia pressing on his bowel. The diagnosis was changed to read ‘bowel cancer’ after the bowel actually ruptured.
For fifteen months he wore a Colostomy bag, suffered through 30-weeks of Chemotherapy, weekly blood tests, and seemingly endless visits to Dr’s and Specialists.

He is currently recovering from the surgery to restore normal bowel function. It’s been a long, hard road, fraught with obstacles. His Stoma was prolapsed, which meant that the bags didn’t adhere properly to his skin and there were numerous embarrassing accidents. Because we are self employed, he had to come back to work as soon as possible after the first surgery, and didn’t even have the luxury of hiding away at home. His much anticipated reconstructive surgery was postponed, not once, but three times, and each time hit him a little harder. Yet each time he managed to rise above the disappointment and maintain his optimistic outlook.

Right from the start he stated firmly that he would ‘beat this thing’ (the cancer), and he has.

They have it right, the authors of those Motivational Books. Whatever the question - the answer is to foster a positive attitude. You don't have to be the bubbling, eternal-ray-of-sunshine with a never ending supply of intended-to-be uplifting clich├ęs. You just have to take down the Don't Care slogans and replace them with 'I Can and I Will'.