25 January, 2021

Stuff and Sentimentality

We are still clearing out my in-laws’ house, but we can see an end to it now. My husband has had a huge job clearing the garage of building materials and tools, and is almost done. Whenever we discussed moving with my in-laws over the last 20 years, my FIL would say, bewildered, “but what will I do with all my tools?” And inertia won out. Many of the tools were his father’s, and one item in particular – a lathe – seemed to centre largely in his concerns. A wonderful solution was found. A neighbour (and one of his very few friends) who had lived next door for 40 years, with her boys raised alongside my husband and his brothers, sought the lathe for one of her grandsons. Yes, it is sad that FIL did not have any grandchildren in New Zealand who could or would take the lathe. But this is the next best thing. I could see the burden lift from my husband as the decision was being made.

 One of my brothers-in-law accused my husband of not being sentimental about his father. This particular brother has lived overseas for decades, and has made very few trips back to see his parents. I was furious at this, having watched the tenderness with which my husband cared for his parents, and then his father alone, in the last years. And pointed out that sentimentality is a luxury that perhaps comes from distance, not proximity over 30 years!

My latest task was to take all my MIL’s jewellery and send photos to all the generations to see what, if anything, they would like. Most of it is costume jewellery, but there are a few interesting vintage pieces. It has taken hours, and in this my husband has not been sentimental, as he suggests – barring a few things – he would just have given them to a charity shop. But I thought of the grandchildren, in particular the granddaughters, and how nice it would be for them to choose a piece or two from their grandmother. I have worked over it for hours –sorting the items, getting photos in the right size to send, compiling documents, etc – and wondered myself if I am crazy. But I do it for the grandchildren. Ironic, isn’t it?

Once again, I think about who will look over my jewellery. One or some of my nieces, I assume. It’s not as if I have a lot of expensive jewellery – I have few pieces that could not be described as costume jewellery, as I have always prized interesting pieces or interesting trips over diamonds! I hope that I will have any special pieces labelled or itemised, as my MIL did with her most precious four rings. It strikes me that I need to do this now, not leave everything until it is too late, as there are a couple of pieces that hold some sentimentality for me. After all, I could be run over by a bus tomorrow!

I promise I will finish these posts soon. We are about to engage a real estate agent, and put the house on the market. What then, I wonder? Will we feel empty, and need new projects? Will we feel ridiculously free? Or perhaps we will turn inwards, and begin some more “death cleaning,” this time with our own belongings? I suspect it will be a little of all of the above.


18 January, 2021

The unknown impact of words

I received a lovely email in December from a reader who is giving me a lot to think about. It was a letter of thanks to our whole community, and so I had to share it with you all. In her words,

"I quite honestly could have … contacted Infertile Phoenix, Loribeth, Jess at My Road to Mommyhood, even Sue at Childless by Marriage (even though that was never my precise situation) because I read you all. And all of your encouraging blog posts and comments."

Gateway Women was also a major influence for her as well. But she wrote to me, perhaps because I am a fellow kiwi (NZer). Essentially though, her message is to us all, which is why I am writing this blog, and mostly using her words (with her permission) to do so.

She was wary of writing. She emphasised that we all need to be more sensitive to the other people in the room, not to be person asking or saying “whatabout …,” and leaving us in peace in our respective safe spaces. Because she has children. But she wanted us to know that we had all helped her. She said,

" … what I really want to say is that the vast majority of my healing and growth has come from the profound wisdom and humour and kindness expressed through your community."

This is why I write, and why I love reading all (or as many as possible) writers in our community. Because, even unintentionally, we touch others outside that community. I know I’ve written that bu being part of the ALI community, and through healing and understanding and growth, I know that I have become better able to help others. But here was a concrete example of that!

You may wonder how this is? Her story is not uncommon. She faced infertility, went through multiple pregnancy losses, and (like many of us) had her reasons for not pursuing adoption. So she was exploring the prospects of a No Kidding life, coming to terms with the fact she would not have children, when she became pregnant. This time it stuck. But motherhood has been complicated for her, and not the "ultimate purpose" of her life as we are all led to believe it will be.

That’s when she found the community again. But not to pity us, or to feel grateful for what she had. She wrote:

"It even took me a while to realise what I was doing. Why was I reading about these lives and thoughts that were, at least on paper, shaped so differently to my own (but felt similar)? And I think it was a way to reach back to the pre-parenthood me. I was so profoundly terrified of a life without children when it appeared inevitable – I had no template for it. I imagined that becoming a parent would somehow erase all of those existential crises thoughts, and I’d have my ‘purpose’ and everything would be ok.

And when it didn’t, I needed to see role models. People who had actually been through the fire. People who didn’t have the (too often) default fall back of “my kids” as the answer for the purpose in life. Somehow, reading from the often profound, often wry blogs in your community, I was able to forgive my pre-parenthood self her fears, and accept my current parenting self for her ‘failures’ as a mum. I would have been ok had I not become a parent. I would have had a fulfilling and satisfying life. I will still be ok now that my life involves parenting. It is not my purpose, it was not what I was ‘put here to do’ – I am still me! You and your friend acknowledged this ages ago: there is no purpose in life other than to enjoy the lives we have."

She talks about the cult of motherhood, and the pressure she feels, and in our correspondence she is sparking thoughts on new blogs from me on this too. But ultimately, she just wanted to thanks us all – writers AND readers and commenters of these blogs, and the Gateway community:

 "Thank you for putting your thoughts out there for people like me to anonymously read. It laid the foundation for me to begin griefwork (because fundamentally many of my torments were unaddressed grief from infertility and losses). And it has allowed me to grow and appreciate, to continue to learn, and perhaps counter-intuitively, to be a better parent."

 <Note from Mali: I don’t think it is counter-intuitive at all!>

 She continued, 

“If parenting’s goal is to raise human beings, then what better guide than people who had to accept the intrinsic unfairness of life in ways that are not socially supported? Who had to rebuild and reassess life in ways that our current society does not expect or demand parents to?”

I've often thought that we have a lot in common with parents. That some societal pressures to conform to one way of behaving or one world view are detrimental to us all. My correspondent agrees, and I may write more about that at another time. But right now, one of the things that has given my life joy and purpose has been being able to help others – whether it is simply from a kind word or smile, or a simple donation, from volunteering or from writing this blog. Getting positive feedback is therefore a reaffirmation that my efforts are worthwhile, and encourages me to continue. I suspect it is the same for you all. So I need to thank our kiwi reader for her words too. Thanks for sharing our common experiences, and the completely unintended impact our words can have – in a good way.

12 January, 2021

Finding beauty in the weeds

Yesterday, I wrote a Monday post about a walk I had recently taken. You can read about it here. The key point was that I had found joy in the little things. Namely, trees I saw all the time, and weeds. Yes, weeds!

I thought again that this was one of the main things that helped me get through the dark days of loss. But not only the dark days. Noticing beautiful things helps make good days into great. It accentuates joy that I might  already be feeling. It deepens gratitude that I am already feeling. It is a lesson that I have brought with me into my No Kidding life. Yes, I know I talk about this frequently. But I think about it a lot too. I never knew at the time what an impact it might have on my life.

When I was young, I used to take joy in little things too, in the form of childish excitement. But as I grew into a teenager and young adult, I think I felt it less. Excitement wasn't acceptable as we grew up. I remember at one time being told to calm down. I never let myself feel or show my excitement in that way again. Not really.

But when I was grieving, I realised that I could take a quiet joy in things that took my mind off my grief. It helped. And it helped to be able to name what I was doing. A friend told me early on in second ectopic to roll with the feelings. That they'd come and go, and that was okay. That was, it turned out, good advice. Because in doing that, I was better able to understand those feelings, recognise them for what they were, and let them flow through me. .

The grief of loss, the pain, the fear, the jealousy, were each acknowledged. But at the same time, it helped to feel joy, and know it was joy or pleasure in the moment, without denying all those other emotions that were swamping me. It helped to feel gratitude, and recognise it as gratitude, knowing that things weren't so bad, that in some ways I was lucky, that there were things in my life that were still good. It helped with perspective. There wasn't just loss in my life. There was more than that.

Gradually, I became better able to understand, recognise, and actually own my feelings. My feelings weren't me - they were a part of me, but I could see they weren't permanent. Sometimes they helped, sometimes they didn't. But if I could recognise them, I could deal with them too.

Owning my feelings. Even the ugly ones. That has been part of the growth of coming to terms with, and living, a No Kidding life. Maybe it would have come to me anyway. Perhaps. But I'm pleased it has. It makes my life better. Easier. Filled with joy and gratitude. And I think (I hope) kinder too. Better able to understand myself and others. Perhaps that's the best gift of all. 

There is beauty everywhere. Even in the unwanted weeds. And it is there to help us.


04 January, 2021

Looking back on the blog: 2020

I’m starting this review with a laugh. Because my 2019 review blogpost began with the comment that “survival is a feat in itself!” Little did I know what 2020 would bring us all! The sentiment is even more important after this last year, don’t you think? If you got through 2020 safe and relatively sane, I think it is an amazing achievement in many parts of the world. And, as I noted in that 2019 post, it is “worth celebrating. Remember that!”

Over 2020, I wrote 59 posts, one less than 2019. At least I’m consistent! Still thinking and writing about No Kidding issues, thoughts, and women.

2020 saw me establish my No Kidding in NZ Instagram account @nokiddinginnz  It’s really just an account to provide some text and links to a new blogpost. But even keeping up with that has been hard recently, so I resolve to be more diligent this year. In particular to try to keep up with the many blogs and accounts that are present on Insta. I know I’ll fail at that – but maybe I’ll just try harder?

I kicked off the year with my 2020 Healing Project, going through the things that helped me (or would have helped if I had known at the time) get through the period of time from approaching a No Kidding life to fully embracing it. It was an interesting exercise – and I hope it helped someone. It helped me, because it took me through the first months of the pandemic when everything was so unfamiliar to us all, and our own very strict lockdown here in NZ back in April and May. The reminders to feel joy when I can, to accept, to connect, to experience, and to celebrate were very important, and helped make the lockdown easier for me. What we learn in difficult times can help us in other difficult times. That’s something I am very grateful for.

The No Kidding in NZ 2020 Healing Project

When Our World Shifts beneath Us

I did a lot of thinking about ageing and death this year, probably because a preoccupation for the year was my father-in-law, his decline, unavoidable move from the house he had lived in since 1962, and ultimately his death in September. Not to mention dealing with his affairs. Of course, we  and inevitably wondering how it will be for us when we are old and infirm, and how to handle our affairs for when we are gone. So I wrote a few posts about end of life issues, or mentioned them in my miscellaneous posts. I’m hoping I can be more cheerful in 2021!

It Won’t Happen to Me

End of Life Wishes

Cleaning up my stuff (and a relevant follow-up on A Separate Life here)

As always, I am grateful for my current connections. Connection is what helps, ultimately, and you have all helped me in 2020.

Friends are the future

Thankful for connections

Being grateful for No Kidding friends

So, as Mel has reminded me yet again, the first week of January is blog delurking week. So do leave a quick hello in the comments (I’m fine with anonymous comments if you’re shy) or send a quick email to me at nokiddinginnz at gmail dot com. I love to know who is reading.

Thanks for being here. I wish you all a safe and happy 2021!


This is an annual nod to Mel, who used to run the Crème de la Crème, where we would list our favourite post of the year. It always provided inspiring reading. So even though it doesn’t happen officially now, I hope that you too will list your favourite posts from your own blogs, on your blogs, for us to enjoy again (or for the first time).