Mocktail Parties and Kindness


 

My daughter’s friends invited us over to their place the other day. It was around 44 degrees inland, and they live near the water, so it was a fortuitous offer! We were invited into their flat and handed a menu!

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Hawaiian music softly played, and when I looked around at the decorations, I almost burst into tears. So much effort had gone into this afternoon; it was an affirmation filled with care and love. As for the menu; what to pick?! Everything looked delicious! We started off with the Rose Mint Tulip whilst we waited for the other guests.

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Many mocktails were consumed, before we headed over the road to the water. The kids swam in the bay, a southerly breeze tapping on our necks. I have often felt out-of-place in this world; not quite knowing where I fit in. Today I felt as though I had experienced a home-coming. To have a family welcome us into their home and elevate a routine day into something special, delighting each of the senses, was wondrous. The day finished with home-made pizzas and more mocktails. The kids had a wonderful afternoon, as did the adults. We talked beyond the superfluous, delving into deeper subjects. We came as we were, and were accepted. We didn’t need to dress a certain way, have a certain address, bank balance, credentials nor look. We came as we were and were handed mocktails, infused with love.

 

Ice Sculpture
Ice Sculpture

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Your Worth…


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I hope that 2017 has been treating you kindly, thus far! After sharing scores of conversations with friends over the holidays, I have realized that a central theme is finances. Time off work (with or without holiday pay), Christmas, birthdays and having money for activities over the school break can be stressful. The bills have a way of arriving straight after Christmas, and demand attention! Some of my loved ones have confided that they feel judged as they balance their commitments. Instead of being given a pat on the back, encouraged that they are doing good by keeping afloat, they have been looked down on. Nobody knows what goes on behind the scenes in other’s lives. Nobody gets to see the sacrifices. Forgoing a script so that your child can have fruit. Forgoing a dental visit so that your child can see a movie with friends. Commendable sacrifices that nobody but you know of.

I wish that we would give each other a break, and listen to the subtle nuances in another’s speech. If they hesitate to make plans, suggest something that doesn’t require expenditure. Set up a tent in the back yard for the kids to camp out in. Set up a sprinkler so they can cool off. Have a sleepover, go for walks, offer dinner at your place. The relief will be palpable! Often, people want to connect, but don’t have the money for dinners and other expenses. It is summer, and we all want to be outdoors, enjoying it. It doesn’t require money.

Being aware of other’s commitments is a kindness on your part. Your worth and theirs isn’t reliant on how much free cash they have in January. It is the integrity of their heart, their capacity for love and sacrifice. Their warmth and their friendship. I had the privilege of going to see a young couple with two kids. The children don’t want for anything and have sturdy role models. The dad can look at a varied assortment of food in their kitchen, and put together an incredible meal. They grow their own vegetables and rarely go out to restaurants. They sacrifice and have made a joyful life for their little family. One of the happiest nights of my life was shared in their company, over a simple meal. I listened to their plans and hopes, and am sure that they will accomplish them all.

As I pay my bills this month, I will give thanks that I am able to do so. There may be trips to the beach and local swimming pool, but there will be more time at home, having friends over and getting back to basics. I will acknowledge the friends who sacrificed to give their family a good Christmas, and who forgoes personal necessities in order to give to their child. These are the sort of people you want in your life. As with everything in this whirlwind life, a tightened belt doesn’t last forever, but the fond memories of how one coped and had fun doing so, will remain.

Flower Markets, Pie shops and Friendship


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Some time back, I went through a hellish week. I hadn’t endured such concentrated crap for quite a while. Unpleasant people from the past tried to sneak back into my atmosphere via social media, money that I was assured would be there to pay essential bills wasn’t, and I was devastated by other events beyond my control. “What on earth is this?” I shrieked, to nobody in particular. “I’m a good person!” The week before, I had been blissfully unaware of the universal dump that was about to be bestowed on me. I wasn’t at all prepared. The thing with trying times, is that they are often beyond our control, but not our capabilities, despite stretching us to our limits.

I knew that I was in strife when I couldn’t stop my arms from trembling, and my hands from shaking. I lost my appetite and three kilograms in a weekend. I was exhausted and longed to rest my thumping head. I was on the loo constantly, my digestive system unable to cope with the stress. My heart felt as though it was leaping out of my chest, and I felt numb; disassociated from what was occurring. All the above were symptomatic of the massive adrenaline rush I was enduring. I couldn’t articulate what I was going through, and so I retreated. I didn’t want to burden anybody, anyway. I longed to disappear. I couldn’t see a way out of the situation I was facing. I felt I had let my daughter down, even though events had been out of my control.

There was a little tap at my door. A friend had been working around the corner and had called in to see me. My eyes were rimmed red from crying and sleep deprivation. Upon seeing me, she held me close, then took me for a drive. We stopped at a pie shop off the beaten track, and I ordered a vegetable pie. They began to make our pies, and we were shown to a round table, the linen tablecloth and colored serviettes adding warmth to a chilly day. There were flowers on each table,nestled in bright vases, and we enjoyed the best pies of our lives. The pastry was flaky, and the filling had just the right amount of seasoning. Afterward, my friend took me to a flower market. We were allowed in the cool rooms, and admired the floral displays. My daughter was asked if she wanted to pick out some flowers to take home with her, and her little face lit up. The dear lady who was running the farm even let us look out the back to see where the gerberas were growing in massive irrigated sheds. Watching my daughter play with the little dog on the farm, I felt the oppression of the past week loosen. The lady at the flower market was gracious to this stranger, and I am sure she could sense that I was fragile on this day. As for my friend, well, she did more for me than she will ever know. She enabled me to escape my own mind, gifting me temporary reprieve.

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The next 24 hours, saw two other good friends call in, and I cried some more as I relayed the impossible situation I faced. What they gave me in terms of support, love and compassion outweighs anything I could calculate. They are indeed my sisters, and they effectively pulled me back from the abyss, and helped me seek ways to continue on. You can feel overwhelmed when a friend is facing a crisis, particularly when lacking funds, time or the health to physically assist.Let me assure you, that real friends understand all that. I equally treasure the cup of tea I was made, a friend opening her house to me, the phone call I received and the heartfelt messages I was gifted. Just knowing that you aren’t alone is enough to sustain you, and bring you clarity. Each and every kindness shall be recalled and valued always.


I still haven’t any resolutions to long-standing burdens, but at least I have a list of steps I can take, right here and now. I feel a little more empowered, and certainly stronger than I did throughout that horrific weekend. It all started with a country drive, a quaint pie shop and a flower market.

Christmas in July


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We have some English ex-pats as friends, and they invited us to Christmas in July celebrations. My mate Dianne loves Christmas, and couldn’t wait to revisit it at the halfway point in the year. Out came her glorious white Christmas tree and decorations. There was enough food to feed several families, and my daughter devoured five Yorkshire Puddings, declaring them a winner! The feeling around that table is one that I delight in, laughter, irreverence and warmth. Hilarity ensued when I found myself locked in the bathroom, unable to get out as the door handle was missing! They heard my little screams eventually!

There were games aplenty, which produced more laughter.

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Oh, and a snow fight indoors! It was eventually taken outside. I loved that the family couldn’t care less about the mess left behind. They were living in the moment, and it was great fun!

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These Brits mean business with their snow!

Santa even made an appearance, to everyone’s joy, and we were each given a gift, as a sort of incentive (bribe), to behave until December 25th.

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I feel overwhelmed that I was welcomed into this family’s celebration. They do real, they know that mess can be cleaned up, and that it is great fun to make! They play games and have fun. They laugh at guests who get locked in their bathroom. I adore them, and I love that Christmas can occur in July.

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Sacred Whinging Spot


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I used to live near a lush reserve, groaning with Weeping Willows. I had a sign on my front door, advising (pleading), for guests to let all the negativity go at the threshold, and come into the house with fresh energy. As a hermit, my house was sacred, a place where I was protected from doom and gloom. A sanctuary where magic existed alongside art and the sound of my typewriter clanging away. I had a business, Avalon’s Gnome, and created a world away from the everyday. Heaven knows, I knew that irritations would arise, as would anger. I just didn’t want to pollute my space with the residue.

I came up with the idea of a having a designated Sacred Whinging Spot. I went for a walk, and found the perfect place. It was a covered area with seats, nestled in amongst the Weeping Willows. I would stuff a cob loaf with ricotta, tomatoes, basil and garlic, and take it along with a thermos of Irish coffee to this space, and when nobody was around, I would let it all out. In between operations, I would relay my fears. I wept, I raged, I told people off in my mind and I expressed my irritation at circumstances and situations. I would eat my Cob loaf and drink my coffee, and leave refreshed. Heck, if you are going to have such a sign over your front door, you have to practice what you preach! I lived in this Federation brick house until it was knocked down to build a unit block. It was one of the happiest, most serene of my many abodes, and I am pretty certain that a part of that had to do with my rule. There were no arguments or words spoken in haste lingering in the rooms. Once my aggravations were expelled at the Sacred Whinging Spot, they were pulled into the earth and transmuted into pure energy.

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Maybe its time to resurrect the notion of a Sacred Whinging Spot, to ensure my home is acoustically clear. Letting it all out whilst surrounded by nature and trees that sway sympathetically in the breeze. There’s magic in that!

Hello Kitty Café, Friends and Sydney


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Sydney in Autumn is a sight to behold. We walked around to drama, dodging trucks and construction of the light installations for Vivid, which starts this weekend. There were buskers and tour groups taking in the history of The Rocks. My daughter has a ritual before her class. I give her money and she buys a strawberry donut from a takeaway shop at Circular Quay. The elderly Vietnamese man sees her approach, and has the donut in the bag before she asks. My daughter says they are the best donuts in the world. We weave our way through wedding parties and photographers, my daughter entranced by the gowns, but grossed out by the romance and smooching. I call our day in the city my caffeine day. When you have such extraordinary coffee and barista’s at your disposal, why wouldn’t you indulge? To redeem myself, I order the best salad in Sydney. Spoilt for choice, it is hard to settle on one, and they are a triumph of assembly. The sort that you wouldn’t bother making yourself at home, unless you had a spare hour or so.

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Scenes such as the one above take my mind off my physical pain. Thank heavens my daughter’s balance is better than mine! On this particular day, I decided to travel over the Harbour Bridge on the train, to see friends. I insisted we try the quirky Hello Kitty Café at Chatswood.

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My friend and I are under the care of an endocrinologist. Both of us are sugar-impaired, shall we say, and we try to behave. This was something of our last hurrah on that front, which is just as well.

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Yes, I drank/ate the Freak Milkshake above, and was suitably buzzing and silly afterward! To my delight, they had a tofu burger on the menu.

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It was a sweet little café, and we enjoyed our outing. It has taken me two days to get over our big day out, but you gotta live, right? I had seen this place had opened over a year ago, and determined to go one day and check it out. It niggles at you, doesn’t it? The events you miss and promise to get to the next year, the things you want to do and people you want to see. Sometimes you just have to do it. We are looking forward to the next adventure! Sydney is brimming with them!

The Reverse


I was feeling adrift on Good Friday. Wistfulnes came upon me and I was listless. Thinking of this world and the tragedies which occurred the past week…My mind was insisting that I curl up in bed and not move. I know enough about myself by now to defy this edict. I ended up doing the reverse. I took my daughter down to the river and went for a walk. I was joined by friends and as the kids played, we chatted. On my way back home, I met another mum, who was trailed by two little boys. Her face was cast in sadness, and she disclosed that she had only been at her in-laws for fifteen minutes and already they were irritated by her gorgeous sons. Rather than stay and become more and more upset by their cantankerous  behaviour, she walked to the river. The boys burnt off energy and we had a lovely time, picking up sticks and errant treasures. 

  
My daughter was overjoyed to find that the Easter Bunny had been Easter Sunday ! There was a trail leading to the backyard, a little girl with a basket, hot on the scent. We lit a candle at breakfast time, and stated what we were thankful for. Afterward, we went to church, and were greeted by many familiar faces. This place is about love, and about service. You can be real here, and the relief is palpable. 

We messaged a friend, and found her to be depressed. She was alone in her unit, and I said that we were coming to see her. “when you are feeling despondent, you sometimes have to do the opposite of what your brain is telling you to do,” I insisted. I know from personal experience. If you feel like isolating yourself and staying in, you have to do the reverse. If you feel like drinking or binging, the same applies. Holidays are a cruel reminder of what you are missing out on, if you are alone. You see the myriad of families enjoying each other’s company on Facebook via status updates and photos. You can’t even watch TV without ads appearing, showing you how it is meant to be. Feelings of rejection, abandonment and fear emerge from the recesses of one’s mind. It is hard to escape. 

   
 I mentioned to our friend that we were going to Vaucluse House, so my daughter could take part in an Easter trail. To my delight, this friend wanted to come along. It takes guts to do the opposite of what your mind is demanding. We watched my daughter and her friend playing amongst the ancient trees, and had a Devonshire tea afterward. It was a perfect afternoon. Next time you feel like isolating, or are pressured to stay inside a home with people that make you feel unwelcome, do the reverse. 

Brain Week, University and Hope


We have had a dizzying week, filled with grace, learning and love. We had a mum and her son come to stay for a little while. They have been on the road for almost a year, and are finding it difficult to locate permanent housing. One day we shall look back with horror that a single mum and her children found it so tough to secure housing. I could think of nobody with such a vested interest in being the perfect tenant. They are travelling South, and I pray that they find what they are looking for. Everybody deserves a permanent home.

My daughter attended a robotics lecture and tour at Sydney University this week, and also went to a Brain Week Open Day at UNSW. She loved being on campus, and was fascinated by all she saw.

IMG_6521This is a picture of her exquisite and beautiful brain activity! I love the violet!

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Casula Powerhouse, Paul Trefry, 'Homeless Still Human.'
Casula Powerhouse,
Paul Trefry, ‘Homeless Still Human.’

My daughter felt emotional as she observed this sculpture, looking deep into his eyes. Everybody deserves permanent housing.

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I attended dinner for a dear friend’s birthday and was delighted that Hannah Erika Music were playing. It was a sublime night. I met a designer, who disclosed that she is dyslexic, and her dream is to empower young people who have dyslexia. I can’t wait to see the glorious clothing she produces after she sets up her business. It is important that dyslexic kids hear of such adults, and have the chance to tour universities, attend workshops and see all the opportunities that are available to them. By ten, most have had deflating experiences and had trials beyond what an adult could comfortably endure. My child loves science, art, music and drama among many other interests. I know she will succeed in whatever she chooses to do in life, not in spite of her dyslexia, but from it. She already thinks outside the box, is extraordinarily creative and curious. These qualities will hold her in good stead.

We also saw a beautiful performance at the Seymour Centre, of Huang Yi and Kuka My daughter asked if the performers had fun coming up with the choreography between themselves and the robot (Kuka). Huang Yi answered an emphatic yes, and went on to tell her that he believed in his dream, and found others who did too. He told her to never let go of her dreams. It was lovely advice to give a little girl with a bucketful of hope.

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Lastly, I had to share the recipe for these fruit balls that my friend made. They are amazing! Mix Coconut, Almond Meal, Honey, Vanilla Essence, Lime juice and peel and Chia seeds together and roll into balls.

 

A Whirlwind Week


On Sunday, we watched a short film that Rev. Bill Crews is putting into a festival. It centred around the homeless residing in two parks near Central Station. How it must feel to be out in the elements in heatwaves and bitter cold… Many in society have a tenuous grip on their security, and it would take but retrenchment or ill health to plummet them into the homeless community. Perhaps that is why many look away. Fear will do that. A lady talked about her daughter’s high school, how they went to one of the parks, armed with sleeping bags. The kids asked questions and listened to the people table their stories. The people became human beings with back-stories, rather than ‘the homeless.’ What a wonderful thing to do!

In the evening, I took my daughter to Govinda’s, a vegetarian restaurant in the city. My daughter proudly ate a lettuce leaf, and some sunflower seeds, and then devoured a bowl of ice cream! She has promised me that she will try new food every day, and I am holding her to it! It would be great to expand her repertoire from beyond Vegemite, apples and Lavash crackers! Okay, she does eat more than that, though barely. Kids can become fixed with their eating habits. I have found that when I leave it up to my daughter to uncover the joy of a new food, it ends much more happily than if I had forced her to try it!

On Monday, I was waiting for the bus with my daughter, to go to drama class. The lady I befriended at the bus stop a few weeks ago pulled over and offered us a lift. Bless her, she went out of her way to take us to the train station. My daughter was impressed with her Hello Kitty seat covers and the delicious air conditioning.  It beat waiting in the blazing sun! Australia is having a very hot week! How wonderful it is when strangers become friends.

We were at a show yesterday, and I was seated next to a stranger. She was an older lady, and she asked whether my daughter was having a  day off school. I explained how she is home schooled, and that it has been great for her dyslexia, to be able to take her time. She told me about her grandson, and how he is dyslexic. Sadly, he has no confidence in his abilities, and left school early. I was able to give her some details about the Exodus Tutorial Centre-among other resources -whom may be able to help. Her eyes lit up, and I knew it was not by accident that we were seated together. She lives not far from me either! Life is a strange and wonderful thing!

It has been a whirlwind week, and it is only Wednesday! More activities have been heaped onto my plate, and at the moment, I am eager for them. I haven’t started the medication for my nerve pain as yet. I have been warned by my doctor and those on it, that whilst it is effective, it will certainly cause drowsiness. I am making hay whilst the sun shines! It is going to be factored in within the next few weeks, making home time necessary. Life is cyclical, isn’t it? I am in the season of crazy-busy, and within a month, I will be in the cycle of repose whilst I get used to this new medicine. Nothing lasts forever; not the whirlwind, nor the sleepiness. Its a matter of adapting to your situation.

 

 

 

 

Festivities of 2015



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At a time when I wanted to be up and running, my back screamed ‘no!’  Pain medication was upped and I have needed to lay flat in between all the craziness of the season. I know I shall require further surgery, but there is a lot to consider. Two people who are dear to me have had major issues since their spinal operations. It is indeed a risky business. There is also the cost, rehabilitation and time spent recovering to think about. It does my head in. My neurosurgeon has said that it will provide no relief from pain, though structurally shall be necessary. I wait and I breathe through it. I hope to get through 2016 without surgery. I am going to plan better and have adequate rest between outings. Adapting and accepting what is… No more running around. It has been good, this stopping. I didn’t have Wi-Fi until yesterday, and I lost my phone somewhere in our new home. I pottered and played games with my daughter. We talked and organized. It was grand.

I made a trip into Sydney before Christmas, and caught up with these wonderful friends. There was torrential rain, and we got wet as we explored our ever-changing city. Anything can happen in Sydney, and you meet wondrous characters, such as this cluster of elves.

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We went to see some local lights with two majestic Samoyed’s and didn’t get far as everyone wanted to pat, photograph and talk to them! They did meet The Grinch and Santa Claus, however.

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Christmas Day, we went to our friend Dianne’s for lunch. She had a lovely assortment of relatives and friends at her place, and Santa even made an appearance! I sampled Yorkshire pudding, bread and butter sauce, trifle and a vegetarian feast. Dianne loves Christmas, and by the time you leave her house, you tend to adore it too. The warmth around that table was outstanding. It was a celebratory feast, for Dianne has faced the eye of a storm and is still standing. How she did it, I just don’t know.

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My daughter expressed concern about Santa’s lack of a tummy. He is English, as it turns out, and fond of running marathons in thongs. I love seeing Australia through this UK family’s eyes. They point out things I have failed to notice, and make me fall in love with Oz anew. Whether it be a native tree, or a whimsical birdsong, it is all appreciated.

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We then went to our friend Mel’s house to be with her family. I may have brought my blender and prepared Mojito’s, as well as a cocktail of fresh peaches and champagne. Mel’s mum complained that her Mojito wasn’t strong enough (the other grown-ups watered it down with soda water), and I felt vindicated! Channing Tatum was brought out, as per tradition, and made to pose. The girls performed a delightful dance, and we played games. There was sadness, as my friend lost her father this year. His absence was felt acutely. We held onto each other; how I wished I could change the events of 2015 for them all. Why does the world tend to lose good people early? I had to excuse myself once or twice to dab my eyes. I shall always treasure this gentle man, and the qualities he carried. I hope that you all have men in your lives with similar traits.

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I received some beautiful gifts. Amongst them was a folder I discovered on my doorstep. I thought it so clever. The take a break bag contained tea and chocolate. The pamper pack contained bath salts and a tea light candle. There was a pen, a calendar, inspirational cards to cut out, colouring in and strategies to help you cope when you are finding it hard. Such a heartfelt and precious gift.

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My friend had also included knitted bracelets and incense in her wondrous care package.

I received this 2016 Memories bottle from Dianne and her family.

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Isn’t this a beautiful idea? I shall fill it to the brim with every kindness shown me. Every occasion that has sweetened my life shall be noted.

Boxes for Christmas  is a local organization, that gives people living in aged care facilities their only Christmas present. These people never receive visitors. Imagine their joy upon receiving a gift from someone who cares on Christmas Day. I thought it was a brilliant idea! I was  touched that a friend purchased a box in my name.

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It was a quiet Christmas, and one of great physical pain, but friends made it bright, and my daughter had a magical time as a result. My back used to be made of steel rods, and I was rigid. Now is the time for fluidity and acceptance. As I age, my spine is deteriorating. There have been mornings when it’s just too much, and I think of going to hospital. I know that if I did, I would be back on the trajectory of scans, surgeons and theatre. I am not ready. So, I whimper in the shower, spray a concoction that burns and provides comfort, and do my brace up tight. Whilst there are friends and birds, children and light in the world, I will continue, just at a slower pace. May 2016 bring this world the peace it so desperately craves. May it begin with us.