Christmas can be a time of great joy and conversely, tremendous pain. Remembering those we have loved and lost, reminscing about people and times past, and hopeful about times still to come. A concentrated month filled with undiluted feelings. Memories sparked by carols, occasions and conversations. Lovely memories can be just as tough as bad ones, when the people involved are no longer with us. Half of all Australians find Christmas hard due to finances. It can feel as though it comes upon us when we are least prepared.
There are a few things we can do to uplift ourselves and keep swimming when feeling overwhelmed.
Volunteer! Nothing lifts your spirits like being of service to others, whether that be serving meals, wrapping gifts or talking to the lonely.
If you haven’t the finances to give purchased gifts, how about offering a service? Babysitting, a dinner, gardening or cleaning may be what your loved one most needs.
Cheap and lovely gift ideas include Reindeer food for kids to sprinkle on the front lawn Christmas Eve (A mix of oats and glitter in little bags), bath salts, hot chocolate mixes or a picture of you both in a painted frame.
Walk around town and enjoy the free entertainment, window displays and decorations. Find out when carol services shall be held locally. It costs nothing and will lift your spirits.
Whatever you do, please don’t isolate yourself. Connect with the community and friends. If Christmas is a challenging time for you, trust me, you will feel worse if you shut yourself away.
Love costs nothing, nor does enjoying the beauty of the season. It is a misnomer that you need money to be able to enjoy Christmas. You just need a full heart.
When you are feeling out of sorts, you tend to let the traditions you hold dear disappear. I was feeling blah, my spinal pain ramping up. We had always gone to the concert and lighting of the Christmas Tree in Martin Place, but this year, I wondered if I should go at all. There was track work scheduled and limited trains to the city. I didn’t want to let my daughter down, so I announced our attendance, and discovered that a dear friend I don’t get to see often was going with her kids and partner. We organized to travel in together. We talked of our dreams for the future, our triumphs and struggles. We found our way to the old GPO building, and decided to grab something to eat before heading out to the concert. Our girls were impressed by the linen tablecloths, and atmosphere, and also the attention they received from the staff. They politely asked for soft drinks, and the adults enjoyed a NZ red. I looked around the table, and saw love, pure and unadulterated love. It was a beautiful feeling. We wove through the crowds and watched the tree light up, fireworks exploding overhead. We walked around town, delighted that David Jones had a fabulous bear-themed window display this year! A cathedral built of lights ran along Pitt St Mall, as did Christmas trees in pots.
The girls climbed, skipped and sang joyfully, and I paused to take in the scene. This would be up there with one of the happiest nights of my life. All unscripted, unplanned and easy. Everyone happy to go with the flow. Even the long train ride from Central became fun, after we started singing ‘A Good Heart’ by Feargal Sharkey, and the whole carriage joined in! I found him on YouTube, and we went through his back catalogue. I wonder where he is now? Traipsing home after midnight, after a special night with friends, I smiled. It felt like Christmas.
I had the privelage of meeting two of the warmest and gentlest people at the beginning of the year. Cristina is a felt artist from Chile who met her beau in a wondrous collision of fate, and together, they run The Magic Weave. They asked me up to The Creative Arts Centre in Glenbrook to partake in needle felting recently. Though I was excited, I was worried my non-existent sewing skills may let me down. To my delight, there was no sewing required! It was meditative, working the fibres with the needle, before turning them into gnomes, snowmen and angels. Cristina had the packs ready and waiting, and the whole process was like witnessing magic!
There is such joy in learning a new craft, and I must say, I never knew I could be skilled with a needle and pile of wool and felt! Cristina and her partner, Frank, are excellent teachers. If I can pick it up in a few hours, so can you! I hope you get the opportunity to visit them in the lower Blue Mountains and catch one of their classes.
It was the second anniversary of Serena’s passing this week. I just wanted to get off this crazy ride, for one precious day, but that isn’t how life works. There was an eight-hour school day to attend to. Serena was never far from my thoughts. Even now, I see women who look like her, and have to stop myself from calling out her name. Her legacy is infused within our everyday life. In her last weeks, she would ask about my plans to home school, and would insist that it was the right decision for my child. As a teacher, I valued her input. My daughter loved her ‘Auntie ‘Rena,’ and as evening fell, we lit a candle within the holder I had bought at a party with Serena. It offered the light filtered through trees. She had loved trees. Her mother has planted a Great White Cherry tree (Tai Haka), in her back garden, in tribute to Serena, and it is growing splendidly.
Whenever I got my knickers in a twist about a mean person, or some trivial matter, she would smile wryly until I too saw the folly of giving the issue such importance. She was practical and no-nonsense. She would just get on with it, and continued to do so until the very end. I learnt so much from how she went about life. Her eyes would light up when she talked about her travels, regaling me with her stories of what she had seen and whom she had met. I swore I saw star dust in her eyes at such times. A scientist once told me he finds it miraculous that we are all made of stars, and is incredulous that we fail to acknowledge it. Serena, you were certainly made of star dust, and are now the brightest star in our galaxy.
When our children went to home school classes run by Casula Powerhouse, we would gather at the coffee shop. Some of the parents would seize the opportunity to do their work on laptops. Some brought their textbooks along and studied. Some would sit and chat over coffee, and some would walk by the river. One of our group organized for anyone interested to go to pottery classes whilst our kids were in classes. Brilliant! Here is what I have learnt.
It requires more focus than you first realize. You have to work the clay with your hands, deliberately and with intent.
Ladies who gather around a mound of clay talk about a wild myriad of subjects, and it feels like sharing your soul with your tribe.
Things go awry, and it’s okay. Legs wobble, bowls are misshapen, and dishes crack when fired.
It is nerve-wracking to send your baby to it’s first firing. You also learn the fine art of surrendering when you relinquish your object to the kiln after glazing. You have no idea if it shall survive. Indeed, you have no idea what colours it shall be, nor the depth of those colours.
The image of what you wish to create often differs from what is done!
Scooping up your pieces of pottery-which cracked in the kiln-you are awestruck at their beauty, and imagine what you can create with them.
Pottery is a metaphor for life. We start off with an idea of what we can create, and do our level best to make it happen. Circumstances change, people have their turn shaping the clay and there is mess. We put the rearranged piece in the kiln and hope for the best, knowing we have done all we can. We read the colour on the bottle of glaze, and try to imagine how it shall look, before spreading it on in liberal strokes. Whatever we end up with, we take pride in having created it with our own hands, however wonky it may be. Life is pretty much like that. If we wanted cookie-cutter perfection, we would have to look to mass-production, and life shouldn’t be like that.
This article got me thinking about how stressful Christmas can be. We are usually dealing with the same income we have during the rest of the year, with the added burden of buying gifts, extra food, drinks and attending functions. It is easy to become anxious with the pressure! I had planned for my daughter and I to go on an overseas holiday for a week with friends this month. I had budgeted for it, and my daughter was so excited that she packed her suitcase months ago! Circumstances beyond my control led to me having to cancel. It broke my heart to disappoint my daughter, and I dreaded breaking the news to her. She put her arms around me, and said “it’s okay; we will go another time.” We surely will.
We are of the belief that things are meant to evolve for our highest good. If something can’t happen in that moment, then maybe it wasn’t meant to. Our time shall come, and it will be all the sweeter when it does. I underestimated my child’s reaction prior to her hearing that we would have to pull out. I think we do that sometimes; buying things we can’t really afford for people. Those that love you, truly love you; want you, not tokenism. They don’t want to see you in debt, stressed about paying off the credit card bills. She has already stated that the best Christmas present will be us being together. She has a little wish list that I am able to fulfil for Christmas (with Santa’s help).
The season is much more than gifts. It is helping those less fortunate, trips to the city to see the decorations. Carol services and playdates with friends. Swimming and a cheeky gin and tonic (for me). Reflecting on the year and how to build upon it in 2017. We can only do what we can do, and it’s okay to be honest with those around you that you can’t afford to do something (or buy it), at this time. Love is what it is all about!
The wondrous Danica has nominated me for the Treasure Trove Award. Many thanks to you! Go check out her inspiring blog!
What is the Treasure Trove Award?
I’ve created the Treasure Trove Award for bloggers who share treasures. Treasures can take the form of: art; community participation and support; creative writing; entertainment; friendship; health and fitness; humor; information; knowledge and insight; life lessons; music; photography; skills and instructions…anything that adds value and is a treasure in the blogosphere.
The Treasure Trove Award is for blogosphere treasures.
What are the rules for the Treasure Trove Award?
The rules are that there are no rules.
You can post the Treasure Trove Award image to your blog — or not.
You can give the award to other bloggers — or not.
I would like to gift all the bloggers who read my words, the Treasure Trove Award.
I am behind on finishing my next book, behind on finishing scheduled articles and behind on my blog. I was anxious about all this, until I remembered that everything has a season. Term 4 has been jam-packed with activities, all of them joyous, though time-consuming. I wake at 5am, and get into the day. The Lyrica I take twice daily (as well as other meds for pain), see me crawl into bed by 8pm most nights. By the time the homeschooling activities are done, there is just enough time for dinner and preparing for the next day. My daughter is a bundle of energy, and when I put it to her that if we worked hard this term, we may be able to finish a little earlier, she readily agreed! Another two weeks, and we shall be done. We will have time to explore, to see friends and rest. Oh, and I shall have time to write regularly!
There have been trips to the theatre, parks and beaches. We went to Sculptures by the Sea, which was fantastic.
We took part in a parade, my daughter as a Scottish warrior, resplendant with a sword, and I as some sort of wench! We had a ball, and as I watched my daughter and her friends brandish their swords, I felt pride.
We made scores of felt angels and lavender balm for a home school market, have been to numerous workshops and traveled far and wide. The days have been busy, though good. Summer is almost here, and it is time for a break. My daughter will still be learning as she plays and writes scripts with her friends, summons up new songs to sing and performs science experiments at home. Every life has a season, and now is the time of writing.
A week or so ago, I boarded a bus with my daughter. We sat at the front of the crowded people-mover. My daughter was listening to music on her headphones, and I caught the eye of the lady across the aisle. She was in her sixties with cinnamon-brown eyes and blonde hair, cut into a bob. She appeared to be on her way to work, judging by her green uniform. A male voice up the back of the bus cut through our greetings, and seemed to become louder and more agitated as the moments passed. The bus stopped, and the driver alighted, a new driver coming on shift. After the bus started again, the man’s voice became louder, his speech laced with profanities and threats to all around him. The driver was busy negotiating his way around road works on the highway, and the lady and I exchanged worried looks. We both knew that we were prepared if he started anything. My daughter was oblivious, in her own world, listening to pop songs. If she had heard, she may well have told him to pull his head in. I was glad she hadn’t heard, as she knows no fear. In her world, if someone is being a bully, a nuisance or menacing, you simply demand that they stop. I had a feeling that the woman opposite had seen this man’s behaviour before, as had I. We knew the unspoken rules, of making no eye contact with the offender, remaining silent so as not to provoke him. If and when he did go on his threatened rampage, I was ready with my walking stick! No way was he going to get near the lady opposite, nor my daughter. Twenty pained minutes passed before he alighted-still ranting- and we breathed a sigh of relief. I escorted the lady to the train station, and she said that he had abused the elderly women waiting for another bus, before we came aboard.
This lady was shaking, and I helped her up the steps. Yes, she had seen it before, and it had indeed brought back memories. I sat with her, comforting her as she debriefed from the stressful situation. She had been ready to tackle him, as had I. Anything can happen in our modern world. You can be attacked for doing nothing, and staying mute. As long as there are ladies with walking sticks and people with righteous indignantion burning in their bellies, we will all stay safe. When I left her, she was past the disorientated stage; past the fear. She was angered, and rightly so. She was just trying to get to work, and I was just trying to get my daughter to her classes. Nobody had the right to interfere with our day in that manner. He was ticked off with life, dumping the toxic waste all over strangers on a bus. He probably felt a sight better afterward, whilst we were left shaken. It has taught me that I must teach my daughter when to stay silent, and when to fight. I pray she never needs to put it into practice.
“Mystery Blogger Award”is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging and they do it with so much love and passion. – Okoto Enigma
The wondrous Erika Kind nominated me for The Mystery Blogger Award. Thankyou so much, precious!
Display the award logo on your blog. √
List the Rules. √
Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog. √
Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well. √
Tell your readers three things about yourself. √
Answer five questions from the nominee. √
Nominate anywhere from ten to twenty bloggers. √
Notify the bloggers by leaving a comment on their blog. √
Ask your nominees any five questions of your choice, including one weird or funny question. √
I have named all my scars, and am proud of the battles I have endured and won.
I have been a vegetarian since I was a child, and have had no desire to eat meat or fish.
I love vegetarian pizzas with jalapeno peppers and pineapple!
Here are Erika’s questions:
Would you overcome a phobia for saving a stranger from a dangerous situation? In a heartbeat, even if I had to crash-tackle a baddie!
If a neighbor was a hoarder and lived in unsafe and unhealthy conditions, would you ignore it or take action? If you did, what would it be? I would try to befriend them, as loneliness is often behind hoarding. I would gently bring up their hoarding behaviours, and help them sort through it, if they would let me.
If you could go back in time and change one day in your life, which day would it be and why? I don’t know if I would, as those days have led me here, and I like who I am, and what I have learnt. Mind you, I could have done without my back being shattered!
What is your favorite word? I have a few! I love luminescent, lambent light, undulating, lyrical and whimsy.
The weird question: If you knew you could get away with it, would you rob a bank? No, because I would know I had done it, and it would be too big a burden!
I nominate all the lovely bloggers here to take part, if you would like to!
'Why be reliant upon secular media sources, literary works penned by atheists, and embittered hearsay to inform your views on religiosity, or worse still to bring about the lack thereof, isn't that as sensible as asking directions to KFC from Ronald McDonald?' ―T. C. M