Christmas in Sydney


As we near Christmas, the scramble to wrap up the year has begun. It has been a whirlwind for us all. I am not ready for Christmas. I was not ready for all that transpired this year. Yet, here we are. We always go to see the Martin Place Christmas Tree, on its maiden lighting, my daughter and I. We had a lovely surprise two years back when another family joined us on the train to Sydney, and we have shared this occasion with them ever since. My daughter had been unwell, and our friends assumed that we wouldn’t be going in this year. Not a chance! My girl bounded in and announced  she was feeling better, insisting we go. We met up with our friends, and amused the other passengers with our musical elf and reindeer ears. We walked through Martin Place, noting the food van and the grateful punters lining up for a meal.

When the tree was lit, I screamed with excitement! It doesn’t matter how old you are, it is a thrill!

 

Life can suck, sure, but when thousands of people go ‘wow,’ and people either side are smiling at you, all is forgotten in that moment, even the light rail debacle. It was made pretty with lights and choirs.

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There were performers on every corner, and as the choir sang a request for peace, I felt it reach inside my soul. We stared into each other, these choristers and I.

 

We greeted strangers in the Pitt St Mall, admired the Swarovski Christmas Tree in the Queen Victoria Building, and pressed our faces against the David Jones Christmas windows. For a few precious hours, we were as enthralled and excited as young children. For a few precious hours, there was beauty. May it continue throughout the new year, this hope, this energy.

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Christmas Decorations are up, and hope is cutting through


I lost a friend the other day. Joan was 102 years of age. She still lived in her own home, and had a special interest in social justice, regularly attending meetings and hearing speakers talk on homelessness, refugees and domestic violence. I met Joan when I was handed a card addressed to ‘the lady with the long blonde hair who has a little dog.’  I was pregnant, and opened the card to find a letter containing the most sublime writing. So began a decade of correspondence; heartfelt, searing and thrilling. I would smile when I saw her cursive on an envelope, knowing that she had poured out her heart to me. Her life hadn’t been easy, but then again, no great heroine’s is. She adored Christmas, and I thought of her as my daughter and I put up our tree.

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When I was going through IVF, a group of us would put our trees up early, to lift our spirits. It is such a difficult season to deal with infertility. As we looped the decorations onto the tree, we paused. Each bauble contained a memory, and we talked of who had given us each one, and where we had purchased the rest. We reminisced as I told my daughter what age she had been when she had made the paper angels and ceramic bells.

This year has felt like a battering rod has crashed through my life, leaving little more than debris. Fortunately, I am skilled at building decent shelters from remnants. What a strange time it is to be alive in this world. Can you believe that our Government wanted to cut funding to Foodbank, an essential service for some of the most vulnerable in our society? I am pleased to report that after public backlash,  they changed their minds. I am astounded that they attempted to pick up chump change in this manner!

The house is ready for Christmas, as my daughter rehearses for end-of-year plays and concerts. We are ready for hope, for light and for miracles. We are preparing for 2019, and the start of a new dawn. Having the tree and decorations up has brought fresh energy into the house. It is a statement, saying that in spite of everything, we are ready to celebrate. In spite of everything, we are looking forward. The twinkling lights represent every dream we hold in our hearts. Those dreams are ready to burst forth.

Lowering Stress at Christmas


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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!

Christmas comes early


Throughout the years of infertility, Christmas had been a lonely time. I made the best of it, putting on a coat threaded with stoicism.  However, when I was decorating the house, wrapping gifts or shopping, there was an acute sense that someone was missing. I couldn’t bear to see children posing with Santa at the shops, and the Christmas music seemed  intent on mocking my friends and I. I joined an IVF support group online, and we talked of how confronting Christmas was, and how we were dreading all the reminders. “Bugger it,” said one lady, “let’s get our trees up early!” She demanded to see photographic evidence, and we dutifully complied. There was magic in the way this act lifted our spirits; we were showing that we were still holding on, to both our sanity and dreams. Some of the ladies tragically lost babies, and others didn’t end up conceiving. Still, we all held faithful to our tradition.

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Late October, my daughter discovered the decorations in the garage and pleaded to be let loose with them. I held her off until November the 1st. Bless her, she counted down the days, and on the first of the month, she ran in, reminding me that it was time.


We played Christmas carols as we unpacked the tree and decorations. As I looked around at the assembled baubles, a lump gathered in my throat. Each represented a time and place, a year or a particular person. We talked of what each piece meant to us as we worked. ” I need to put all the Christmas things up early, like you did when you were pregnant with me,” my daughter laughed. Oh darling, it started way before I was pregnant, at a time when a precious group of ladies met on the internet to give comfort to each other. We still provide a photograph each year, to assure the others that our job is done.

We need sparkle to lift us up. We need to get out the china and silver, the candles and bling. We need to create beauty. It is akin to standing on a mountain top and shouting that you are here. The more personal strife befalls, the more we need to decorate. It was worth all the work to see this little girl beam with excitement. The season of hope is starting. 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Traditions, Christmas, Darkness and Light


Can you feel it too? There is loneliness and pain, darkness and light flitting about the earth.  Christmas Day in Australia is taking place on a full moon. You can’t get more intense than that! People seem to be exhausted and have let traditions slip. Annual get-togethers haven’t happened, and events attended each Christmas have been neglected. I was feeling melancholy, then realized that I haven’t been to a carol service, local markets, nor caught up with friends. All the things that make life lighter and give you something to look forward to. The only event we went to was the lighting of the Martin Place Christmas Tree, and I was finding it hard to sustain the Christmas spirit until I went to a loved one’s house and was gifted these blankets.

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Hand-made in Ethiopia, their sale benefits Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, an organization founded by Dr Catherine Hamlin, whom still does the rounds of the hospital in her 90’s. I had tears when my daughter and I were gifted these blankets. Young women had crafted them a world away. The fact is, one can be in Ethiopia in a day. Restoring these women’s dignity restores us all. I will treasure these blankets all my days.

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My little girl asked me to close my eyes Saturday afternoon, and presented me with this little girl, aptly called Noel. I have wanted a cockatiel for the longest time and am delighted with this addition to our family. I couldn’t have asked for a more thoughtful and wondrous gift! It has been cute watching our little birds desperate to impress her with their songs and tricks. She adores them, and loves going into their house and hanging out with them. Whilst birds and thoughtful kids, blankets and people such as Dr Catherine Hamlin are in the world, life is great.

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It has been a new frontier, starting home schooling. I identified as the ‘school mum,’  helping out, and attending assemblies and concerts, carols, fetes and movies. I think we have both felt a little adrift this season as a result. It is a whole new way of life, and we are so grateful that she will be seeing her old school friends as well as new friends through the holidays. I am so grateful to my friend Lisa, who is a librarian. She brings around books aimed at dyslexic kids. The stories are engaging and it is a joy to watch my daughter read. We are getting there with building up her confidence. This lady contacted me, explaining we had mutual friends and that she would like to help. Help you have, beautiful one.

I have had periods of ferocious flashbacks and what those in the know term ‘the horrors.’ Aptly titled. Trying to function whilst your heart is in your throat and your voice is unable to relay what is going on inside your mind… We have needed to stop, and just be together. We all need to stop once in a while and have nowhere to go and nothing to do. There has been a lapse in traditions this season. I love the story I heard of a lady who goes on a long walk and picks flowers with her children before opening the gifts around the tree Christmas morning. This week, I shall be honouring some of my standards, and it will seem I am being drip-fed light. It will feel like Christmas. I wish there was time to see everyone I want to, and go to everything I desire to. Time is a cruel master on this earth, and you can only do what you can do.

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Moving has brought home to me how much we tolerate. I am sleeping better here, and am certainly much more content. How I lasted in the former place, I don’t know. You become used to unpleasant situations, but then it reaches a point when you break and say, “I can’t do this anymore!” In the breaking down, there comes the breakthrough that you need. It is so quiet here, and the fragrant roses continue to bloom. Life isn’t perfect, and there are challenges, but at least I can be alone with my thoughts. This is the home that love and friendship built, after all. I shall never forget everyone’s kindness.

Go gently through this season, and please, be kind to yourself. I think we will look back on 2015 as the year of dramatic change, with people leaving and lives being shaken to their core. We are almost through it, kids. As I watch Noel throw her water dish from her platform, I smile. She looks at me, as though saying, “what do you think of them apples?” I think those apples are fabulous, as I do this life. So much is out of our control, but if we adhere to our traditions, we can take refuge in what is familiar and safe. That is what I shall be doing this week, and it shall feel great.

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Sydney and the Wonder of Christmas


12289651_1058672524166592_6198241402834796503_n Today, we remember the two beautiful lives lost at the Lindt café in Martin Place on this day, a year ago. I was going to go in with my daughter, to meet a friend and her child. We were going to meet at Martin Place, and would have been in the café that very morning, but my spine was playing up. I stayed home instead. Life can be so indiscriminate. The survivors have been so very brave this past year, as have the families of those who didn’t make it out. How they have carried themselves is awe-inspiring. I pray for you all today. Anniversaries are so very hard.

Life is outrageously busy, with many things demanding our attention. You need to escape once in a while. My daughter and I travelled to Martin Place a few weeks ago, to see the Christmas Tree lit up. Light rain tapped onto our faces as we watched the concert, my daughter dancing and cartwheeling throughout. The tree was switched on, and fireworks rocketed into the sky. Elves arrived, cycling a sleigh as Santa and the City of Sydney Mayor, Clover Moore, reclined.

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Strangers need to gather together. We have a yearning for connection. It felt like the beginning of Christmas on this evening. By returning to Martin Place, people heal it. We honour those who were lost, and remember what the survivors endured. In a world gone mad, watching a child dance is an act of sanity.

Christmas can be tough. I have personally heard stories of alcoholism, child abuse, domestic violence, poverty and estrangements this past week. I wish I could banish all the agony, but I cant. I can provide a listening ear and what resources I have. I can love and extend myself. Everything is made larger at Christmas. Overtures of kindness and gatherings of loved ones… Loneliness and pain. Always look for the helpers. Those who listen and smile. Those with kind eyes and warm hearts. That is where hope resides. I hope that you get to attend a free gathering, no matter what your spiritual leaning. It gets you out of your own head and into the world of people and connection. May you have a peaceful season, floating on a calm and azure-blue sea. I pray that if you need help, you receive it. Let people hear your voice. For some, it has been silent for too long. You have been invisible for too long. Let them hear what you need. If the first person doesn’t get it, blame it on a faulty connection and try again with somebody else. Keep going. I am so glad that I did. I got to see my daughter dance in the light rain. I got to see people smiling and hugging in Martin Place. I got to see hope.

My little girl attended a Christmas party hosted by her singing teacher, Tiah. This young lady has brought our children the gift of song, and our little people have gained not only their voice, but confidence. She is studying at university, and I know she shall make a fine music teacher upon graduating. I am so thankful this whacky, quirky young lady is in our lives.

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We went to an event to benefit the MS society the next day, cornflour mixed with a rainbow of colour.

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Messy and chaotic, vibrant and as joyful as life itself. We were scheduled to be at Martin Place a year ago, but at the last moment, we weren’t. I remember resting in bed, my spine in spasms, when I heard what had happened. More responsibility to live a good life in honour of those who were there. Life is precious, and can end in an instant. The trick is to fully live whilst you are here.

Weeping Angel


My life ramped up the busy and the stress in the past few weeks, and I haven’t gotten here as often as I wanted. Hoping to have a little spare time soon! I wanted to share my angel with you.

 My friend sent a picture of her whilst she was shopping, and asked if I wanted her to pick up one for me. I collect angels, gnomes and fairies, so of course I said yes. It turned out that my golden angel isn’t posing in an exasperated fashion due to my antics. She is a Doctor Who Weeping Angel! Goodness! When I read the story of her origin, I was a little startled (you can tell I have never watched Doctor Who). I am keeping her regardless, and will repurpose her to be an exasperated angel, perched at the top of my Christmas Tree! My friend thought it funny that little Raphie saw a photo of a glittery golden angel and immediately yearned for her, unaware that she turns into a monster. Pretty much sums up my naiveté! I am learning the gift of discernment though, and perhaps viewing this angel throughout December may help remind me.

Christmas Greetings.


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I just reached for my phone, to text Serena. I am going to go see Christmas  lights with my little girl, and Serena would usually come too. I had to remember that she is gone, past the clouds, blistering sun and brooding moon. I remain. What to do with the rest of my life? How about I learn from Serena? Her curiosity was outstanding, and led to her taking snippets from this resource and that. She had a tower of clipping’s by life’s end. I promise to be adventurous and travel far and wide. Not to discover myself, but rather to uncover more. You taught me that.

This Christmas is both challenging and miraculous. A friend of mine who works in welfare brought me this Christmas cake she had baked.

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I took it down to the Exodus Foundation, where I am sure it will be enjoyed. Kindness takes your breath away. It is unprompted and seeks nothing of itself. The people of Sydney are kind. Strangers were handing out tissues yesterday at Martin Place. Nobody was jostling in the long line of people wanting (and needing), to pay their respects. We cried and held each other.

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We then took the children to a department store, where they discovered cheeky cards in the stationery aisle.

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Children laugh spontaneously. Adults laugh in spite of it all.

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Admiring window displays and decorations… We partake in this annual ritual to syphon colour out of a kaleidoscope, taking those we have loved and lost along for the journey. I have made a pledge with a friend of mine to partake in more whimsical gatherings in the new year. “The world needs more whimsy; we all do,” she stated. Being silly for the hell of it. Why not? Fond memories to look back on.

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This year has been tragic, strange and everything in between. Like all years. We have to leave some of our beloved’s in 2014, for  time on this earth has frozen for them. I will always remember this Christmas as the year Sydney stood strong. We were comforted by strangers and the sweet smell of flowers drifted through the city. I was personally grieving one of my best friends, comforted by her strong mother, and my daughter. My daughter; brave and empathic and brimming with love. I will remember this Christmas as the time when another dear friend saved her own life. She had no symptoms, but insisted on a mammogram. She was $30 out-of-pocket after her rebate. “Best $30 I ever spent,” she said, after they discovered she had breast cancer. She had surgery last week, and is recovering, her plucky sense of humour intact. Her messages on the net have been guided by some pretty powerful painkillers, her spirit delighting us all. I let go of a lot of silly expectations I had of myself. The hundreds of cards I expected to write, the numerous gifts I expected to post… My loved ones understood. As they showed compassion to a harried mum who is grieving, I decided to do thus. They still love me, and they know I love them. You can let extraneous stuff go this Christmas and get back to basics. You will still be loved. My friends, there is pain and pleasure in abundance, and certainly throughout this Christmas. They sit ill at ease with one another, though they manage to mingle. May your Christmas be peaceful. Perhaps joy is too much to expect, but I pray it comes your way. Many people have come to my door, mourning the loss of their marriage, career or health. Christmas brings up a lot, especially if your life can’t compete with the commercials. I haven’t met anyone whose life can, no matter how it looks on Facebook. We are all just clumsily doing this thing called life together. Hold on until the new year. I have a feeling that 2015 will burn bright. xxx

 

 

 

Summer Holiday.


It was hectic at the airport, even at dawn. My daughter got her little case spontaneously searched and hands on hips, rebuked security. “I am only a kid! What would I have a bomb for?!” They smiled, and I hurried her along. We got to our destination and were alarmed that our hire car wasn’t actually waiting for us at the airport. I had booked online and presumed it would be there. I was bit concerned that a man I didn’t know took us in a mini van to a place we didn’t know. Very relieved that he pulled up at an actual caryard and we got our car! Okay, step one down. My daughter and I made a unilateral decision to go to Tropical Fruit World. Barry, our tour guide, had that dry, laconic Qld wit I adored. When we all raised our arms in reply to his asking if we lived in NSW, he looked at us with a great deal of pity. P1070540After learning about the medicinal properties of fruit, I made a mental note to eat more of them in 2014. We arrived at the resort, bone weary but had an excited little girl with us. She immediately got in the pool, and as kids do, made many new friends.

She wanted to try the new ice-skating rink out, and I helped her lace up her boots. I had a lump in my throat as I watched other parents help my unsteady child. Soon, she had abandoned the ramp, and was whizzing around. P1070581Times like these, I feel quietly robbed. I would have given anything to be on that ice with her. When the time was up, I was greeted with a warm hug. “I pray that the doctors find a cure for your bones mummy.” She kissed me and I was healed. IMG_1123