Newsies


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I didn’t quite know what to expect when I attended the preview of Newsies, a movie filmed on Broadway during a live performance. The sublime music and spectacular dancing entranced both my daughter and I, dropping us gently into New York circa 1899, and the beginning of an uprising. The whole audience cheered for the street-smart newsboys, and sneered when the villainous mogul slithered onto stage. It is heartwarming, especially knowing it is based on real events and real lads. It opened up a discussion with my daughter about trade unions, and how essential they have been in bringing workers decent conditions. I highly recommend taking the kids to see the movie this Sunday.

Here is an article from the illustrious Elissa Blake on Newsies.

Newsies is being screened for one day only, on Sunday 19th February at Event Cinemas. Book here.

 

 

The Travelling Life


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A homeschool mum made contact with me in the holidays, telling me that she was going to settle for a term in my hometown. She mentioned that she had a daughter,the same age as mine. We arranged to meet at a local park, and as soon as we met the pair, we were in love. Both presented with the broadest smiles and the girls went off to play, becoming instant friends. As I was offered a plum, the lady told me of their life.

A single mum, she had once had a mortgage and a life overseas, but when her daughter was born, realized that things needed to change. She sold everything, and they began their travelling life, living out of one suitcase each. Her daughter is so unattached to possessions, that at free craft days in libraries,she routinely gifts her creations to the teacher, so she doesn’t have to carry it! The experience of creation enthralled her more than the end result. The mum produces work on the internet, so can move anywhere in the world in a beat. They mind other people’s homes, cars and pets whilst they are away, thus cutting their costs.

When they arrived in my town, it was during a heat wave, and they sought refuge at the local club, sipping iced water and enjoying the free WiFi until the kitchen opened for a cheap meal. The daughter told stories of staying in an Italian village, and could recall the history of the cobblestone streets. They have been on discount cruises, and travelled the globe. The mum said that ditching her possessions was freeing, and I have no doubt it was. She expects things to work out, and they do! I recommended a dance school, and the mum contacted them, and next thing, her daughter was cast in a production! The next issue was locating cheap dancing shoes. A shoe shop was closing down, and everything was heavily discounted. She was able to buy a few pairs of shoes for $9 a pair (that were worth far more), the last of the ballet and jazz line. She said that this sort of luck occurs regularly, and they never stress about opportunities, money nor anything else.

Her daughter is resourceful and curious, open to new experiences. The girls are going to do a kick-boxing class together after my new friend found a cheap class in my town (which I knew nothing of)! They create wonder and community wherever they go. They are two of the funniest, life-inspiring folk I have ever come across. Things I have learned in the three weeks I have known them:

  • We talk ourselves out of travel and grand experiences the moment the delicious vision enters our minds. We don’t have enough money… We can’t do it…It would be too hard…
  • You can do anything you set your mind to, even with limited resources.
  • Decluttering is the go! Aim for experience over stuff.
  • Once something new comes in, an old piece of clothing etc, must leave.
  • Enjoy the thing whilst it is in your life, then gift it to someone else. We are doing up an old bike for the young girl to ride whilst she is here, and when she leaves, we shall gift it to someone else.
  • You are going to be alright, and everything will turn out okay. Trust yourself and the universe.
  • Have faith in your abilities and resourcefulness. You can cope with anything that life throws at you!
  • There are far more wondrous people in this world than bad. Take it from these travellers, who have stayed in scores of places throughout the world and met hundreds of strangers that have become friends.
  • Kids don’t need stuff in order to have a secure childhood; they just need you.

I feel stronger and braver since meeting this family, and am looking forward to shaking up my world. They seemed to blow in, like a leaf shaken from a faraway tree, brushing my shoulder and garnering my attention, admiration and love.

Sizzling in Sydney


It’s almost time to get back into the craziness of Term 1 of Homeschooling. We have had many days at home, decluttering and organizing, reading and resting. One of my daughter’s friends came to stay for a few days, and my heart nearly flipped out of my chest when I heard them talk as we went for a walk. They chatted about how they were both their mum’s last chance. How we were both down to one follicle. They talked about being miracles. I am glad they both understand that they truly are! Sydney has been hit with many days of searing temperatures, and we have sought comfort in the southerly winds offered by the coastline.

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Performers at Luna Park
Performers at Luna Park

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There have been a few visits to Luna Park. I purchased an annual pass for my daughter a few months back, and it has proven it’s worth. She can enjoy the rides and then swim next door in Nth Sydney pool to cool off afterward. If I go once a month, it works out to $8 a visit. At the back of Luna Park, you can walk to Lavender Bay, and visit Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden. On the way, you will uncover treasures such as these.

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We took some little fairies there to replace those that were pinched behind magical little doors. It seems they have gone again, but I will continue to replace them when I go there. It’s a bit like life; your gifts may be stolen or crushed, but you keep on getting up and giving it all that you have. You must.

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A friend was bitten by a bee at Luna Park the other day. I thought she was having a lend for a split second, as you don’t expect to find a bee by the water! She wanted me to pull out the stinger, but I thought I might make a hash of it, so we hurried to the First Aid room. The first aid lady was efficient and friendly, and as the stinger was taken out of her neck, I assured my friend that it was good luck to be stung and it meant she was incredibly sweet!

My daughter and I have met all kinds of characters on our city adventures. She complimented a fellow on his bright hand-painted shirt and it turned out he was an artist from the Southern Highlands. We waved at the lucky travellers on a cruise ship as our ferry went by, and met a lovely elderly man who comes down to Circular Quay most days to watch the boats and people. On Saturday, I dropped my daughter’s friend back into the city to meet her parents, and the girls noticed that a sky-writer had written TRUMP in large letters, spearing the blue film above us. This started a diatribe from the ten and eleven year old’s, unscripted and delighting everyone waiting to cross at the lights. Many were women on their way to march at Hyde Park. I am glad our young girls have a voice, and feel able to use it. I am glad that they can debate and know that their opinions shall be valued.

Our Home by the River
Our Home by the River

January has been a time of crushed ice, cold drinks, cold packs and swimmers. It has been a time of parades at Luna Park, park dates, pools and oceans. It has been a pilgrimage or two to the Secret Garden and dancing to buskers we meet. In Melbourne, it has been a time of mourning. Sydney stands with you in your grief over what occurred in the Bourke St Mall. I hope you can feel the solidarity. There but for grace and timing, go any of us day-trippers, who think nothing of walking along a boulevard or mall. Now more than ever, we have to hold onto one another. To donate to the appeal for victims of this travesty, click here.

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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Leading into Christmas…


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We attended an extraordinary home school Christmas party last week! There were craft tables, snow, disco lights, food and even Santa made an appearance! The kids wrapped up some hapless dads in Christmas paper and decorated them. We had to remind them to provide air holes so they could breathe!

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I met some dear friends at Luna Park, and we waited patiently in line at the gift shop. There were a bunch of school kids in the shop, and one asked to see the contents of a show bag. The friendly assistant held up each item separately, and gave the kid a blow-by-blow description of each piece. Five minutes passed, and he grabbed another showbag and did the same! We were in hysterics, my mind wandering to the infamous scene from Love Actually with Rowan Atkinson. Fifteen minutes later, we were served! It was kind of nice to be in a situation where the assistant had all the time in the world to help a kid make the best choice of showbag. You are meant to be on Island time during the holidays!

I coerced my friend into reclining on the moon seat, and then fell about laughing when the germ-a-phobe came across something unidentifiable and sticky with her hand!

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My daughter and I went to a friend’s house for a playdate. Now this friend is fighting a health battle, and yet had gone to so much trouble. There were red tablecloths, crackers and decorations on the tables. There was a feast prepared, and carols playing. Her gorgeous daughter had made all the kids a gift; a precious decoration for the tree. Another friend (who had endured a tough year), remarked that it really felt like Christmas now. How gracious and kind was this lady, to go to so much trouble. It is a day I will never forget.

I was having a gin with another friend, and when she excused herself to go to the bathroom, two older men-gigantic in stature came and sat down next to us. When she came back, she was alarmed to find one of the fellows had sat himself within an inch of her seat! We both shrugged and talked about how some people have no concept of space. She moved her seat around when they began to argue. Finally, the fellow who had taken over that side of the table apologized. “We are Glaswegian, and tryin’ to sort out an argument; excuse our bad language. We are very sorry.” We started giggling and couldn’t stop. Their tiff sorted, they left. I have missed this friend, and love that I’m now able to catch up with those I haven’t been able to see all year.

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This is a friend’s dog. Isn’t she beautiful?!

I have had to have a few days at home, after the spinal pain became unmanageable. Circumstances saw me having to postpone my visits to specialists and a pain clinic during 2016, something I will have to do during 2017.

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One more thought, posted by a glorious friend yesterday.

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What I learnt from Pottery Class


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This was meant to be a tray, but the side on the left broke off!

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.

  1. It requires more focus than you first realize. You have to work the clay with your hands, deliberately and with intent.
  2. 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.
  3. Things go awry, and it’s okay. Legs wobble, bowls are misshapen, and dishes crack when fired.
  4. 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.
  5. The image of what you wish to create often differs from what is done!
  6. 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.

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Parades and Time


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.

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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.

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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.

Light it Red for Dyslexia


It’s that magical time of year again! This is what I wrote last year. The other day, my daughter read a whole lesson plan out by herself! It has taken eighteen months of frustration and tears to build her confidence, but she now believes that she can do it, in her own time and way. We have tools in which to help her, and her involvement in drama, the arts and singing have contributed greatly to her heightened self-esteem.

She joined the RSL Rural Commemorative Youth Choir, and it has given both her and I such joy. The choir had a camp at Cockatoo Island, and sang at Government House recently, Damien Leith and Mrs Hurley singing alongside them. My daughter was so buoyant after this experience, it was hard to recollect a time when her confidence was at rock-bottom.

When she has a dramatic performance, she learns her lines by singing them to a beat. When she learns songs, she tends to do so quickly. It has been fascinating, observing how she learns and also humbling. She walks with a skip in her step and her head held high, just as I dreamed she would.

For more information on Light it Red for Dyslexia, click here.

Happy 10th Birthday, Sweetheart!


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My darling daughter,

I dreamed about you for an eternity before you arrived. Throughout each endometriosis surgery and treatment, the visage of you kept me going. IVF was brutal, and resulted in me being hospitalized for weeks, and hope was hard to find. After three disastrous cycles, I had no idea what to do next. I heard the ‘thud’ of the local paper hitting my doorstep, read that a new clinic was giving a talk, and the rest is history! I nearly lost you at 19 weeks; I was put in a room down the far end of the maternity ward after my waters broke and contractions started. The next 24 hours were the worst of my life. In what can only be described as a miracle, the rupture sealed, and my contractions stopped. You were holding on tenaciously, just as you did when an embryo.

I was going to have a planned caesarian, a result of my spinal injuries and other complications. A month beforehand, you were in the breech position, and decided that you would flip yourself completely over when the car broke down on the highway! Full of surprises, you decided to arrive shortly afterward. I was in full labour for over 24 hours before I decided to get to hospital. I was so used to endometriosis pain, I thought these pains weren’t the real deal! Rushed into surgery, I felt discombobulated. Oh darling, when I heard that roar of yours, I was in heaven.

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Since your birth, you have been brimming with energy that cannot be contained, nor should it. Your kind heart has always been apparent. I recall when you were 18 months of age, and I took you to see a dear fellow who was dying in a hospice. You grabbed a hold of his hand, as though you sensed he needed your comfort in his unconscious state. You talk to the homeless, eager to hear their stories. You can’t stand bullies, and are the first to stick up for anyone under duress. When our dear friend passed in 2014, you flitted between the pews, consoling the mourners. You have never been frightened of death, hospitals nor the homeless. Maybe it’s because you know how to live; a gift you were born with.

I used to worry (freak out), when you would climb to the top of whatever took your fancy in that particular moment. I soon grew out of that. If I stopped you seeking the apex, I would be stifling who you were born to be. We have a tree out the front of our place, and I love hearing you talk excitedly of what you can see from your vista. You cartwheel, run and climb your way through life.

An artist, you see the beauty around you, and feel it is important to tell someone that you appreciate their dress, hair, style or home. “We have to compliment strangers, mum,” you say, “it makes people feel great!” You sing like an angel, and want to be a singer/actress when you are older. I have no doubt that you shall be.

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You are astute, a model of discernment. You know instinctively who is meant to be in our circle, and who isn’t. I know to trust your impressions. I have seen you grow in confidence since I started homeschooling you, and I am so very proud of who you are. You are at your desk before I have had my coffee most mornings. You love learning. You love your birds, your room, your friends. You love life, passionately and unequivocally.

You are an organizer, and have a place for every treasure you possess. You actually love cleaning and cooking! I have no idea what I did to deserve you as a daughter, but I am glad I did it! I can’t believe a decade has passed since you were born. Boy, have we had adventures! We have also had our share of trying times, and despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to shield you from disappointment and pain. Your ability to emerge from such astounds me. Keep it up, sweetheart. I know you will get to your destiny, and it shall be glorious. I will be right beside you, cheering you on.

Love, your very proud mum. xxx

Retreat and Refreshment.


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This was me at the end of term 2. I was hanging out for the school holidays, longing for days at home. The last week of term, I was in the city five times for workshops, shows and other commitments. It is a journey of almost two hours each way. I would curl up in the shower each morning, allowing the heat to wash over my spine, willing myself to get going. When you are in that level of pain, you operate on automatic pilot. The promise of a two week break got me through. We have been for walks through our beautiful town, and have had plenty of home days. It has been bliss.

 

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Getting the house in order and planning for Term 3 has been wonderful. Resting when I need to, and playing with my daughter has been a treat. Life gets so busy; too busy. There needs to be retreat as well. I don’t know how anybody with a massive amount of daily pain does it. I certainly don’t know I get through!  I do it because I have to. I am grateful that I still can.

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This is sometimes where I find myself. I have to rest, and connect with my daughter. I need to lay flat, as it’s the only way I find relief from the relentless pain. It is frustrating when there are so many marvelous things going on, and so many special friends to see. Those closest to my heart are those whom understand and patiently await our return to society. I appreciate them with all my being. No pressure, just love. I am starting to let go of feeling bad if I have to have a day in bed to recover.

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These are indeed the best moments; the pockets of time where we can heal and grow strong. On my walks, I have been able to appreciate the sound of the bell birds and kookaburras, the sight of llamas, horses and cows, and the pleasantries exchanged. I have caught up with friends I haven’t seen for well over a year, and it is as though no time has passed. We pick up where we left off, and there is nothing but love. I will keep going on this strange and wonderful journey, and during term, whirl around from event to event. In the holidays, I will continue to retreat into the mists, emerging refreshed. It is how it has to be.