A Pleasing Pattern


Are you a people-pleaser? Fortunately, I’m not, and haven’t been since my teenage years. I have pretty much done what I wanted to do, and I have never had a problem saying ‘no’ either if I didn’t feel right about doing something.

Having said all that, there was a ‘pleasing pattern’ which came to the surface quite unexpectedly ~ one that I thought was long gone. It really surprised me, and had it not been for a very direct statement I may have missed it, which would have been even more surprising given how brutally honest I am with myself.

At the time I was at university ~ a confident and successful 40 something business woman who had stepped away from what she did very well to follow a new passion. But given my miserable school history both in primary and high school, stepping into the academic world after 25 years was not only a momentous step, it was a huge challenge.

And I did it brilliantly because I loved it ~ straight A’s and distinctions. And with each result I’d phone my mother, and with great pride tell her about my latest achievement, until one day she said, “You know I’m very proud of you, but I hope you’re not trying to please me. Do it for yourself” And suddenly it struck me, I did want to please her! I’d slipped back into an old childhood pattern ~ I was the good little girl performing perfectly because it made my mother happy.

A Pleasing Pattern - Pleasing OthersWhat an amazing realisation! I couldn’t believe it was still there! Over the years Mum and I had spoken openly about why she steered me in the direction she did when I was growing up. As far as her children were concerned, her hopes were high. She wanted the very best, which for her was a cultured upbringing. And being as tuned in to her hopes and dreams as I was, I fulfilled them to the best of my ability. I played piano beautifully and danced ballet, even better. And while there is always an element of pressure in having to practice daily and rush off to lessons I didn’t question it, for me it just was. My sibling’s response however was quite different. My brother flatly refused to have anything to do with the piano and couldn’t understand why Mum kept dragging us into the city to see Swan Lake and Giselle, or sit through Madam Butterfly and Faust! And by the time my sister came along, well, times had changed, and freedom was in the air ~ she happily did whatever she wanted!

Education was also very important to my mother. The war had completely destroyed her hopes for higher education so when I decided to apply for university, I was yet again fulfilling her dreams. It would seem the stage was set, and there was no way I was going to escape revisiting the past. It was almost as if the Universe had conspired for it to be dealt with, and deal with it we did ~ instantaneously!

I have never been one for over-analysing. I don’t see the point. For me, it’s a waste of time. Once I see it, it’s fixed and I move on. And that’s what we did, my mother and I. I can’t thank her enough for recognising the pattern, for in that moment we were both released. She was not prepared to repeat the past, and I was finally free to be truly true to myself. The pleasing pattern’s power was at last gone.

Inara Hawley © 2014

Getting Educated


We all know that education is important, however, getting educated is not always about academic results. School was not a happy time for me. Coming from a non-English speaking background my primary years were for the most part confusing and lonely. My one good year, the final one, did nothing to magically change how I felt about school, and after years of practising and performing all I wanted was the freedom to have fun. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the strict authoritarian system which awaited me in high school.

Now education can, and should, be fun and enjoyable, especially for school children. I know this for a fact. However, the ‘chalk and talk’ method of teaching we were subjected to in high school was mindlessly and hopelessly boring. To be honest, I can’t remember one challenging, interesting or satisfying moment ~ not one! The focus was only on results. And so I developed a healthy disregard for the system and everyone in it, and instead of applying myself, I chose the path of least resistance ~ I decided not to participate and did the bare minimum.

In my second year of high school, I really dug in. While I never got into any trouble ~ I was quiet and obedient ~ I didn’t put in an ounce of effort. My mother was called in to discuss my ‘lack of interest’, and while it was a mystery to all concerned because I refused to discuss it, a conclusion was reached. Due to my recent IQ test results ~ obviously I must have thought that was fun because I came through with flying colours ~ I would not have to repeat the grade. As I was a year younger than everyone else, it might not have been such a bad idea if encouragement and support may have been forthcoming, but as it was, I blundered on!

Needless to say after five long years, it was a relief to leave. My final results fell far short of shining ~ I failed. But I wasn’t the least bit worried. I had complete confidence in myself ~ I knew I’d be fine. My mother, while she would have loved to see me go on to university, also knew I’d be fine. She didn’t ask me what I wanted, but she didn’t berate me either. Instead, having watched me apply myself diligently in both piano and ballet over the years, and knowing my abilities as only a mother could, she pointed me in exactly the right direction ~ a short technical course which suited my skill with numbers and bookkeeping perfectly. And I breezed through it! It was easy. I was organised, had a good head for figures, and it wasn’t too many years before I was working in trusted administrative positions … and after I was married, I happily managed the family businesses.

Apart from spending a few years studying herbal medicine when I had a sick baby ~ a purpose which I was very passionate about at the time, I had no deep desire in furthering my education. Life was good, and I was very happy. But as always in this journey of ours, new paths present themselves. And when I became a school mother, that’s exactly what happened … a new passion was born. I wanted to teach. So in my early forties, I applied to university, and based purely on my determination and enthusiasm, for I didn’t have the required high school results, I was accepted.

Getting Educated

Graduation Day with my family

And I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it. I loved, loved, loved, being a university student. I used to stand in the middle of the campus and just drink it all in. The challenge, the effort, the satisfaction and the accomplishment were all thrilling to me. It was hard work, but every second was worth it. While I am, and always will be a product of the school of life, getting a degree was the biggest gift I have ever given myself because I followed a dream, believed in it and succeeded. But while getting educated is important ~ it gives us choices, and that’s a wonderful thing ~ success and happiness in life does not depend on academic results or higher education. It depends on love, passion, determination, belief and confidence, and the joyful enjoyment of the journey. That I know for sure.

And so, I write this blog post for two reasons, both of which are based on my personal experience. Firstly, to say, don’t pressure your children. Take the focus off results and performance. Ask them what they want and listen to what they have to say ~ you may be surprised. They have a lifetime to get educated, and when they are ready, they will do it. In fact, some life experience before they go off to higher education is a very good thing. They may even make a different choice while they are out there getting that life experience, and that’s OK too! Let them choose, and then, even though it may not be your choice, support it.

And secondly, be an example for your children. Show them that they can follow their dreams. My daughter watched me follow mine. She watched me succeed in my chosen work, and then succeed in following a passion. And I did it all for my personal pleasure, in my own time, when I was ready. And she is doing exactly the same.

Inara Hawley © 2014

The Magic of Christmas


I don’t bake, I really don’t. But Christmas is coming and this year I have decided to do some baking. And as I haven’t done it for years, it requires some pre-Christmas testing. So this week I’ve whipped up a few treats in preparation for the oncoming food festivities.

Christmas CakeHubby, who would almost walk over hot coals for fruit cake is my tester, and he is loving every minute of it! He was brought up on homemade cakes, biscuits, and all manner of delectable preserves and desserts made by his mother. Sadly, he has had no such luck living with me! I have however, created my own special food traditions over the years, and Christmas is part of those special memories.

Being European, my family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve, which during my childhood was always a magical night. Our Christmas tree with its pine needles touching the ceiling sparkled with tinsel, shiny baubles, and dangling bags of chocolate money. And our little house, readied for the evening’s celebration, was filled with the glorious sounds and smells of Christmas. For my brother and me, it was the most exciting night of the year for without fail, every Christmas Eve Santa knocked on our door. We were always beside ourselves with anticipation, bouncing from room to room and peeking through the windows. And just as darkness fell, there he was on our porch with an enormous bag of presents over his shoulder.

And such is the magic of Christmas, that as he jollied his way through the front door everyone’s eyes lit up. The adults welcomed him as if he was a long lost friend, and we children looked on with wide-eyed excitement. Then he would take a seat, declare what a wonderful night it was, and turn to us children. For the tradition was that before we received our presents, we performed for Santa. My brother recited the same poem each year, and I tinkled a tune on the piano. That done he reached into his bag and gave everyone a present, and then with a great flourish was on his way. It never occurred to us children to put two and two together when shortly after Santa left, a favourite uncle arrived!

Then it was time for food ~ our table was laden, and I mean truly laden, with gastronomic delights. No English Christmas dinner with pudding for us! We began with freshly baked Latvian pirags followed by homemade rollmops, devilled eggs, marinated cucumbers, sour cream, and smoked ham. Then came my mother’s European potato salad, her German ‘kommen morgen wieder’ ~ a delicious savoury pancake, and the yummiest sauerkraut with succulent crumbed pork chops you ever tasted. And for dessert, Mum’s special dried fruit compote served with homemade custard. All of it wonderful!


Latvian Pirags – delicious little buns filled with bacon and onion


Rollmops ~ pickled herring with dill cucumber

My parents’ house was ‘the’ Christmas house for many years. My mother was a wonderful cook and my father loved a party, so naturally everybody came. After I was married the mantel to create the merriment on Christmas Eve was passed to me, and for a number of years everyone came to our house. My mother brought her sauerkraut and potato salad, a trifle arrived with my brother’s family, and everyone else brought their good cheer. And not only did our Christmas Eves sparkle with tinsel, baubles, wonderful food and the same magical goodwill and love of childhood days, Santa always arrived as well!

      Santa Claus    Family Christmas

Our family is now spread far and wide, but as many of us as can still gather on Christmas Eve, which these days is once again held at my mother’s. And as I bake and taste, and bake some more, my reminiscing fills me with joyous memories. And as only childhood memories can, awakens within me once again the magic of Christmas and the happy anticipation of sharing it with my family.

Inara Hawley © 2013

Lunch in Paris


I was just married and in Paris for the first time. It was Hubby’s favourite city, and he wanted very much to show me why he loved it, and so on the few days that we had there, we walked until we almost had holes in our shoes. But our time was short. This was our honeymoon and we had the rest of Europe to see, so on our last day we decided to do a late morning bus tour to see the parts of Paris that our feet had not yet discovered.

After about half an hour of winding through narrow streets we were negotiating the traffic in the Avenue Franklin Roosevelt when our tour guide said, “And on ze left we have one of ze top ten restaurants of ze vorld”.  Without a word, we looked at each other and in unison rose from our seats, pressed the stop button on the bus and got off! And in our jeans and joggers, we walked through the front door of the Lasserre.

The LaserreWith great aplomb we were ushered to our table. Not an eyebrow was raised as to our casual attire, especially given every table was occupied by very fashionable gentlemen in business suits. My eyes took in everything at once ~ huge windows with sumptuous drapes, high ornate ceiling, beautifully set tables, silver service on crisp white tablecloths, crystal glasses, and three levels of waiters in waistcoats and bow ties. It was elegance personified!

The menu was outstanding, and because we simply couldn’t help ourselves, we ordered the Pheasant Under Glass, and it was magnificent! Every course was brought to us for approval and then went back to the kitchen for plating. And between each course, sorbet cleansed our pallet to prepare us for the next delight, and the junior waiter brushed down the tablecloth and changed the cutlery. The service was outstanding, and we were basking in the ambience. It was pure indulgent pleasure, and of course we lingered over every course with enjoyment. We were making a memory, and loving every second of it.

When it came time to use the restroom, it was an experience in itself! I was escorted to and from the ladies. Yes, that’s right! A waiter walked me all the way to the ladies, waited and then walked me back. It was slightly disconcerting ~ my first thought was, I can do this on my own, but then I thought, hey, give in and go with the flow!

Now I haven’t mentioned the wine because we left the choices up to the Sommelier, who outdid himself ~ even the port was perfect. As we were raising the last glass of nectar to our lips, we noticed the room was getting a touch hazy ~ all the French gents were puffing on their after lunch cigars … well it was 1976! And then suddenly, the ceiling parted, and we were looking at the sky … and all the smoke dissipated! It was absolutely astonishing!

When it came time to pay the bill we confidently flashed the Diners Card, but amazingly, it was politely refused … “No sir, ve onlee accept ze cash or ze personal cheque”. Well we had no cash, but as luck would have it, I had my personal cheque book. What a relief that was! For a second there we thought we’d have to wash dishes! So with the same aplomb as we were seated, they accepted my cheque. It was such a class act given I was on holiday from another country. I was then given a long-stemmed rose and giddy with good food, good wine, and French gallantry, we floated back to the streets of Paris, and back to our hotel to pack for the next leg of our honeymoon.

In the years following we had the opportunity to visit a few more on the top ten list of best restaurants of the world, but our experience at the Lasserre was by far the most impressive. And thirty six years later, while we remember the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral, the amazing Louvre, our trip down the Seine, the spectacular Lido, the elegance of the Parisians and the fabulous street artists, it was our impromptu lunch at the Lasserre which remains the most memorable memory of Paris, a city we both fell in love with.

Inara Hawley © 2013

The House in My Dreams


When I dream about a house it’s almost always the same one ~ the house I grew up in. A modest two bedroom fibro rental with a big backyard, it was plain and basic, and looked like all the houses in the street. So connected am I to the memories of it, I can barely remember living elsewhere. After moving around like gypsies during our first few years in Australia, it became our safe haven ~ the house which we made into a home, and where we lived until I was 18 years of age.  It’s where I started and finished school, where I found my first job and where I experienced all the significant events of childhood and young adulthood.

While the house may have been plain, it was very well dressed, especially on the inside. You see, my mother loved to decorate. It wasn’t unusual to come home to find our beds in another room, or the lounge suite recovered! She painted and wallpapered, and moved furniture from room to room regularly. When she got it into her mind that it had to be done, it was done! One day I came home from school to find her painting. Nothing unusual about that, except that on that particular day she was painting the kitchen ceiling. Barely five feet tall, she had created her own special painting platform ~ she’d placed a chair on the laminate table and on top of that there was a stool. And perched on top of that, was my little mother painting the ceiling watermelon pink! As a consequence the kitchen had the honour of being the most impressive room in the house for a couple of years.

Our Street

My brother on his scooter in our street

Even though our house was small, it was always bursting at the seams. The little room off the kitchen, which many years later I realised, was a dining room as it also had a door into the lounge which we blocked off with the piano, was our guest room. And it was always occupied, by either a full-time boarder or a friend in need. Mum, being who she was, opened her heart and door to them all, and they became part of our family.

The borders were generally lonely gents who drank just a little too much, and the friends in need nearly always outstayed their welcome. When my aunt and uncle moved in for a year with my two cousins the house was reorganised yet again. They occupied the guest room and the lounge room. Mum never turned anyone away.

A party at our house

A party at our house ~ Mum with Dad reclining in front are on the left, and I am on the far right.

Yes, it was a house full of people, but it was also a house full of parties. Having survived the war, my parents and their friends took every opportunity to enjoy life. A weekend rarely went by without the clinking of glasses, music, dancing, laughter and convivial conversation. Compared to our quiet Australian neighbours we made lots of noise, but that’s who we were ~ it was the sound of joy and gratitude.

My mother would be in the kitchen cooking up a storm, and my father would be enjoying time with his war mates, mostly single men who had been separated from their families during the war. They gravitated to us to be part of our family, to hear the sound of children and get a home cooked meal. On those party weekends, when we woke on a Sunday morning, we always seemed to have accumulated more people, and Mum, being the kind soul that she was, fed them yet again.

My sister's christening

My brother and I with our baby sister taken on her Christening Day. As always, Mum sewed our outfits and worked well into the night to get them finished.

Every event in our family was celebrated in a big way. The most impressive of all was my sister’s christening. Eighty people filled our little home. Furniture was crammed into the two small bedrooms and trestle tables with pristine white tablecloths were set up in the lounge and down the hallway. Mum cooked for days and did a wonderful job, but the pièce de résistance was the suckling pig which Dad roasted in the ovens at the local bakery where he worked. It was quite a party!

While we created many a good memory during our years there, the day came when it was time to leave. My parents were about to become home owners for the first time ~ a newly built house awaited us, and we were so excited. I said no sad goodbyes ~ not even to my friends. Our bright future was the only thing which filled our hearts and minds that day. There was however one heartbreaking moment which still tugs at my heart, and that was having to leave behind a little beagle. As with all the people who found their way to our door, he was welcomed with open arms. He had loving owners, but during the day they weren’t at home, and in search of company, one day he found us and fell in love with my baby sister. From that day on and for the next two years he spent every day with us, going home only in the evening. As animals do, on the day we left he sensed something was amiss. He watched us load up, and as we drove away he ran after our car. He finally gave up, and with tears in my eyes, I watched as he slowly disappeared into the distance.

So it was with sadness and joy that we moved on. The little beagle who loved us and the house which was our safe haven for so many years became part of our past, firmly locked in my heart, and in my dreams.

Inara Hawley © 2013

Clothes Do Not Maketh the Woman

Leave a comment

Inara HawleyI have never been a great follower of fashion. I buy what I like and what I need, and if I really like it, I often buy two of the same thing so I don’t have to shop again for a loooong time. That doesn’t mean I haven’t done the glamour thing or worn fabulous clothes. I have. I have even made the grand entrance wearing super long earrings and a low cut number, and I enjoyed every second of it. I looked fabulous, and it was loads of fun! But as far as fashion goes, the truth is I refuse to be a slave to it.

In the heady days of dinner parties (fortunately floaty caftans were all the rage so looking glam was very easy!), I recall a function with a group of women where one pouty beauty leaned in and asked me if what I was wearing was a ‘so and so label’. Well, stuffed if I knew ~ I hadn’t ever bothered to look at the label! Like all of my clothes, it was a department store purchase. But geez, it was a great feeling to know that I must have been wearing it so well that it elicited a comment! That being said, I have had my day buying up to my heart’s content in an exclusive boutique.

Like most girls when I was a young thing I loved my lippy, glossy nails, sassy clothes and had hair the colour of a flaming sunset one week and ruby highlights the next. I even used to paint my toenails, but oh how things have changed, and in looking back, it’s easy to see when and why they did. First to go was the makeup and nail polish ~ studying herbal medicine was more important but then I’ve always had good skin so it didn’t make much difference, then it was the sassy clothes ~ being a busy young Mum put paid to that and quite frankly I liked my hippy handmade clothes heaps better at the time, and then it was the hair ~ that was easy as I have no trouble cutting my own hair, and I’ve never been a big fan of going to the hairdresser!

So, as I walked my different paths I cared less and less about creating an impression with what I looked like and more and more with what I did … but back to my day in an exclusive boutique. In the early late 70’s and early 80’s Hubby and I travelled a great deal, and we would always stop over in Singapore on our way home for a bit of shopping ~ Hubby bought handmade shirts, and I bought shoes. On one such trip, which Hubby did alone, he rang from Sweden and in his expansive way, asked me to join him in Singapore for a week, but with one proviso ~ I was not to bring one item of old clothing with me … he wanted to see me in a whole new designer wardrobe!

Melbourne Cup OutfitYou see, it was a celebration as we had just sold a business and the trip was the handover, so I thought, right ~ I’m up for it! It’s something I’d never done before, but off I trotted to an exclusive boutique. And as was my way in those days, I got everything done in record time ~ I marched in and went to town! Everything, but everything I bought, was a designer label. And all of it was gorgeous! The sales girl couldn’t believe her luck … it was like the scene in Pretty Woman ~ I walked out with bags and bags of designer clothes.

It was the one and only time I ever did it, but I wore those clothes for years. It just goes to show, that well-made classic designs are forever, and really don’t have that much to do with what’s in fashion. And yes it was fun ~ all of it was fun. Even my hippy clothes were fun, and that’s what it’s really all about ~ enjoying yourself ~ something I’ve always seized with both hands and done with great gusto with all my heart, no matter what I was wearing!

Inara Hawley © 2013

A Trip into Town


These days I am a real home body. The years of tearing around constantly doing and travelling, and being the boss person are over. I love being at home ~ it’s my paradise!

I also have no desire to change the world anymore either. Mind you, there was a time when I was close to being a placard-carrying activist! I think the only thing that stopped me was that I was so very busy, but I was very vocal. Hubby reckons I’m still vocal … but thank goodness, he also reckons I’m fair, bless his cotton socks!

The days of seeing the world through black and white eyes has long gone ~ it’s now a glorious range of colours. And today I know that any change I want to see in the world starts with me. I don’t fight against anything anymore. Resistance is my teacher, not my way of life. There is much that doesn’t matter nowadays ~ what does matter however, is goodwill, wellbeing and joy, which is exactly what I experienced today. I light up my little corner of the world with all the good-feeling joy I can muster, and so it is in our little town … today I experienced a dose of good-feeling small town joy.

Drive into TownWith our list of bits and pieces, hubby and I ventured up the road to our little township. It was a beautiful day ~ a blessing of course, but really that’s not the point. And before I go on, may I say that heading out with hubby is a favourite thing to do … but I digress ~ our first stop was the library, which is why I was out and about (you will never catch me going out just to do the shopping!). Anyway, our library is a fabulous place. We walked into a bubbling hive of activity. Children were bursting with smiles, mothers with prams were rocking their babies, and hellos and goodbyes were bouncing around the room as folk came and went. The place radiated easygoing pleasure.

Armed with our books ~ deep and meaningful sagas for me and a handful of who-done-its for hubby, our next stop was the nursery. Again, we were met with an easygoing vibe. Eager and helpful staff carried our purchases to the car as they chatted and smiled. Next stop was a look at the new Health and Wellbeing Centre ~ it seems that even in our small ‘give the man meat’ timber town folk want to see alternative therapists, which is great!

Walk Down MainstreetThen it was off down the main street to the supermarket. It was a bit of a walk, but it was such a pleasure as every single person we passed smiled and said G’day (yes, we all say ‘G’day’ in the country!). The supermarket door seemed to magically open when we needed to step through, and later at the checkout, I stopped for a second to look around ~ youngsters were being helpful with bags, I was telling the checkout girl how to get rid of her hiccups, folk were chatting across the aisles and the other checkout girl was punching the air and joyfully announcing to everyone she was off to lunch!

Notice BoardAs we packed the car I looked over at the local Notice Board, and as I have done before, I was amazed at the activities available for such a small town ~ various reading groups, a mothers group, pottery and craft, line dancing, a family history group, and many more … obviously a town that refuses to be bored! And as I have discovered, everything is done enthusiastically for whenever I enquire about anything, I am always met with an excited ‘come join us’ vibe.

Now today all of this goodwill could have been because of the glorious weather, but I don’t think so. Even on a cold winter’s day in town, the eyes I meet under beanies are friendly, and the faces I see are always smiling. Why? Because I’m always smiling! You see, when you smile for the pure joy of it, the whole world smiles with you. And even though my home is my paradise, today, it was a pleasure and a joy to be out amongst it. After all, paradise is everywhere if you have the joy in your heart to create it and the eyes to see it!

Inara Hawley © 2013

The Best Years


Today is my 37th Wedding Anniversary. It’s the second time around for Hubby. Not for me though, and while the research says that second marriages are more likely to fail, they obviously got it wrong when it came to us. Ours continues on in all its glory and bliss.

Our Wedding Day

Our Wedding Day in 1976

Like everyone, we’ve had our ups and downs and spits and spats, but the hard times, and there have been some very hard times, pale into insignificance when compared to the love, joy and happiness we’ve shared ~ it abounds and bounces around like glittery stars, and with each bounce creates more and more of the same!

So, after all these years how did we celebrate? Well, we did our favourite thing ~ we had a lovely breakfast followed by a quiet day in, enjoying each other’s company and reminiscing about what a fabulous life we’ve had. And we have! We’ve done so many things together ~ we’ve worked as partners in business from day one creating and building our best life, travelled the world enjoying fabulous moments and wonderful friends, and created an enduring family filled with love and joy. Not everyone could take being together 24/7, but for us it’s been easy! We knew from the very beginning we were a good team.

Words of thanks, especially those which are written, are a wonderful thing. Eleven years ago when Hubby celebrated a special birthday these are the words I wrote …

‘We have enjoyed 28 wonderful and eventful years together, 26 of them in a committed loving marriage. We have spoken many times of the gratitude we both feel to be so very blessed. Over the years we have not only been each other’s most important support, but we have given each other many special gifts of love, hope and joy. Before our beautiful child was born, our life was only about us. Now, having shared the joys of parenthood and the many paths travelled together I am cushioned by the wonderful memories of the past and the ones yet to come.

I look forward to every day with you. You light up my life. You are a rock and a comfort … my handsome everlasting love. Thank you for the romance, the nurturing, the spoiling, the wit, the humour, the fun, the good times, and also the hard. You have never wavered for a moment. You have always done your best with a kind and giving heart. And thank you for being so understanding, for loving me so completely and always allowing me the freedom to follow my own pursuits… and also, for sharing your sadness and your joy ~ for sharing the real you.

Oh how our life together has grown, only because we have been so united and so confident that it would. We have shared so much yet the time has been but a blink of an eye. But we have never, nor will we ever waste a moment. We will always fill our lives with laughter, joy and happiness. As always, my heart is full. I salute and serenade you with love, love, love.’

The Best Years

Hubby and I today!

Those words are just as true today. People often ask me, how is it that we have such a good marriage, and the answer is easy ~ we’re worth it! We respect and hold each other in very high esteem. We have never tried to outdo the other ~ competition has no place in a marriage ~ instead we always work to each other’s strengths. And we learn from each other too ~ impetuous me for instance, has learned to ‘sleep on it’ while Hubby has learned to slam a door! We laugh every day, especially at the things that annoy us, and we do ‘silly’ a lot. We spoil each other, we celebrate the special moments, we have loads of fun and most important of all ~ we play the mutual admiration game and trust each other completely. My marriage is the most comfortable place in the world. I am treated like a princess by the kindness, most caring, funniest and gorgeous bloke I know!

We’ve had 39 wonderful years together, and if you were to ask me which were the best? My answer would be: all of them and every single one yet to come! As I was writing this, Hubby came in, took my hand, kissed it and said, “We got it right!” Yes, we most certainly did!

Inara Hawley © 2013

Building a Deck


I married a builder. Now this doesn’t mean that I’ve lived with Mr. Handy for the last 36 years ~ far from it! He put his tool bag away long before he met me and went into corporate work, where he rose to dizzy heights. Then he married me, and in addition to being life partners, we also became business partners.

This made for a very busy lifestyle, and as most Australians do, we moved around quite a bit. Over the years we’ve lived in six houses ~ built one from scratch and improved the others with either big or small renovations, all done by hired builders. But now that Hubby has retired, he’s a man possessed ~ renovating has become his passion! From early morning to mid afternoon he’s out there hammering away at something, creating his version of a great place to live. And it’s a good thing too, as this house is badly in need of repair. I’ve never lived in such a run down place. It was a sad old house indeed when we moved in ~ very unloved, and it took me a bit of time to get used to the fact that it was falling apart inside, but as Hubby said, it had good bones and he fell in love with it at first glance so here we are, and here he is doing what he set out to do when he first saw the place ~ fix it up!

Our Country HomeWe had a general idea of the renovations we wanted to do, but apart from what tradespeople like electricians and plumbers did, there was a long list of bits that needed doing first, like repairing verandah boards, lining cupboards, replacing doors, fixing steps, making rails and pump covers, repairing fences, planting trees, and the biggie ~ painting the outside of the house. Only then could we think about what we’d do with the mess outside the kitchen door. The back porch was small and downright dangerous, and the ground area was wet, sloppy and awful (that’s girl talk for it being a ‘rainwater sump with rotting deck timber’) so hubby decided to build a decent covered deck. My thoughts were, given that he was doing it all by himself and there was lots of heavy lifting and tall ladders involved, it was probably a bit beyond him, but he was resolute … he was building the deck. My idea of a decent covered outside area was a large roof, a bit of a porch, and some pavers and gravel for sitting around the barbeque, but no, no, no! He had a plan and he would not be swayed, and in case I didn’t hear him the first time, he was BUILDING THE DECK!

Hubby Building DeckRoof Nearly DoneDeck StepsDeck Boards DoneAnd so it began. With measurements in hand Hubby took himself off to the local hardware store and connected with his new best friends … yes, there were days when he needed to pop up there three times in the space of 6 hours! And of course the locals (hubby does all the shopping so he knows everyone) have all been kept up to date as well. The owners of the post office, who nearly bought the place when it was for sale, expect a blow-by-blow of everything we do plus photographs! And anyone who’s ever made a delivery of materials has also taken a moment to check in on the building progress. All I can say is, you’ve got to love the people in small country towns!

So bit by bit and board by board, our deck grew into something rather fabulous. But of course building it without fixing the surrounding garden simply wouldn’t do. So there was also a lot of moving of dirt, retaining of garden walls, filling and planting, and covering the very grotty broken pathways with pavers and gravel. And in doing all of it Hubby only fell off the ladder from a great height once! It was a big ‘ouch’ and under instructions from wife and four daughters he took a week off! Fast forward five months and everything is now finished … it’s been a huge job, and it looks fantastic ~ even the cats love it! Compared to what was there before Hubby has created something very special. He has a flair for designing just the right thing for the right space. And Sheep Man, who owns the little flock on our land, is coming over in the next few days with his strong-man brother-in-law to carry out the barbecue.

The Finished Deck!So that’s the deck done! And now we sit out there with swelled chests admiring it and loving that we can soak up the beauty of our surroundings in such a luxurious space. It’s a pleasure and a joy, and my man is a miracle worker. He is so special and I am truly blessed.

Inara Hawley © 2013

The Path to Teaching


In hindsight, the path leading to the important choices we make is usually very clear, even if the beginnings may appear to be somewhat tenuous and difficult. But sometimes, it’s precisely because those beginnings are difficult that a particular path is taken.

When I was five years old I started school, but because I couldn’t speak a word of English I walked into a very scary and confusing world. Had it not been for the little boy who lived next door taking me by the hand on that first day, I would have been totally lost. But the truth of it was, when it came to school, I was lost … for quite a long time.

4th Class School PhotoWhether it was the xenophobia which was rife in Australia in the 1950’s or the fact that I was so quiet no one noticed how much I was struggling, my early school life was a soul destroying experience. And because no one bothered to reach out, isolation and a lack of confidence became my daily school companions ~ quite a paradox for a child, who outside of school, was lively and confident, and gave piano recitals and ballet performances regularly. Of course by the time I was in second class I knew the drill ~ I was no longer confused, just isolated and afraid to speak up. That’s me above in the front row holding the board in my year five class photo.

It seemed that I could not touch the heart of any teacher until I was in the last year of primary, when low and behold, my teacher was not Australian, but Polish!  She not only noticed me, but praised me. And suddenly my world changed ~ I excelled, and I topped the year! I also found my first school friend that year, a German girl who, like me, had her own struggle ~ she had a debilitating stutter. For the year we were together we became firm friends and I was in heaven ~ a friend and a teacher who both cared. It was bliss!

During the years up until then I was very much alone, even in the playground. I was so reticent and shy I can’t ever remember playing with the other children. I guess it was because I was different, and of course I was! So I sat by myself in my short uniform ~ everyone else wore theirs below the knee, with my warm winter woolly undershorts ~ usually a nice bright colour knitted by my grandmother, eating my black bread sandwiches filled with either jam or liverwurst. While modern day bullying didn’t exist in the 1950’s, differences were not accepted as they are today. If you didn’t fit in you were not included, and I didn’t fit in simply because I didn’t know how to bridge the gap. I was too shy.

Path to Teaching - My Family in the 1950sApart from that last happy year, it’s hard to remember any really joyful events in primary school. Those happened at home with my family and the kids on our street with whom I played every day ~ I had no problem fitting in with them. It’s there that I felt confident, comfortable and happy ~ all the things I didn’t feel at school. Kindergarten for instance, was a nightmare. The teacher was a witch and in fact proved to be a very cruel individual. It would have been blatantly clear that I didn’t have the language skills to ask for anything, let alone wanting to use the toilet. The day came when I could hold it no longer, and as we all stood in line holding up our paintings, I felt the warm trickle of a puddle spreading at my feet. I not only had to clean it up, but that became my spot for the rest of the year! I was 5 years old, but even a 5 year old can feel overwhelmingly humiliated.

And there were lots of instructions which passed me by as well. There was the day I sat outside by myself while the whole school community was in the main hall enjoying a performance. I was sitting there alone because I had not paid my money. It’s not that I had forgotten … it’s that I had not understood I should bring it. I was only in 1st class. And then there was the day I fell ill. It was the middle of summer and very hot, but rather than telephone my mother to come fetch me, the school told me to go home. I had a raging temperature, but stoically started walking! By sheer coincidence my mother was on a bus going into town. Shocked to see her 7 year old daughter walking alone on the main street in searing heat, she jumped off the bus and reached me just in time. My legs buckled and I collapsed. She picked me up and carried me home.

With this level of incompetence and insensitivity, you would be right to wonder why my parents didn’t hit the roof. They did the best they could, but unfortunately they were having as much trouble as I was trying to integrate into the Australian way of life. As it was, by the time I was seven I spoke the best English in the house. And it was not the European way to let children sleep over or go off to someone’s house for the day without parents, nor was my mother comfortable with letting me go on school excursions. In those very raw years after the Second World War we were very protective of our own, particularly in a country where we were not openly accepted, so we kept to ourselves and created our own communities. While I became far more self-assured in high school, and my parents became more relaxed as well, a pattern had unfortunately been set and I found no joy in being at school or in learning ~ then friends and rebellion were more important, and my education fell by the wayside.

While this may sound like a sorry tale, it isn’t. It’s certainly a shameful tale about the school system at the time, but not about me. The education system may have failed me, but I didn’t fail myself. None of it made me crumble, and none of it made me feel like a victim either. It actually made me stronger and more determined to do well in life, which is exactly what I went on to do. In years to come I understood that being ‘me’ and having had ‘my’ experiences was my greatest strength. Even though at times I may have aspired to be ‘the same’, it was actually the fact that I was different which turned out to be one of my greatest inspirations ~ the memory of how difficult and lonely those early school days were inspired me, as a mature age student, to become a teacher. I wanted to make a difference, especially for those who struggled. And what I found was that I not only got the university education I didn’t pursue after leaving school, the children I taught satisfied a deep longing within me to see every child shine.

Without doubt teaching has a special place in my heart, but what is abundantly clear is that when we choose to use our challenges, past or present, as inspiration rather than allow them to defeat us ~ when we treat them as a launching pad, we ignite passion and fill our world with purpose. And we can make that choice at any time … about any challenge.

Inara Hawley © 2013