Isolation, Community Pantry and Anzac Day


What a whirlwind this week has been! You can actually be busier than ever, stuck at home. Projects that were lying dormant, have been completed.

I had a dream about starting a community pantry, and by chance, the next day, my lovely friend, Lisa, mentioned that she wanted to as well! We put the call out for a suitable pantry-holder, and a friend dropped in a locker. Not only was it weatherproof, but cool enough for us to put some Easter eggs inside! Lisa printed and laminated signs for the outside, and we managed to fill it. We decided to put it at the back of the bus stop, outside our local park. Within a day, things were taken, and it filled my heart when I saw a teenager and his little sister shyly approach the locker. “Are you sure it’s okay to take stuff?” the little girl asked. They took a few items, and closed the door, and I saw them walk to a house near the park. As items are taken, more appear. If it provides a meal for a family, or saves people from having to go to the supermarket for one or two items, we are pleased. We sanitise it at least once a day. Times are tough for so many people. Many have never needed to rely on Centrelink, nor charities before, and it takes time to wrap your head around it. One of the bravest things one can do, is ask for help. Everything is cyclical; you are the giver in one instance, and you must accept help in turn.

 

There was a rap at my door last weekend, and I was surprised, as nobody comes to visit at the moment! Standing on my porch, was my friend, Donna. She runs Butterflies Florist, and was holding a bouquet of flowers. It reminded me of how birds call out to each other when they can’t be seen. They are letting each other know that they are okay. At dawn, they call out to assure their compatriots that they made it through the night. This felt like a call from friends I hadn’t been able to see since this began.

 

Another dear friend (knowing my love of hummingbirds), dropped off a piece of art at my front door.

 

Yesterday was Anzac Day, and for the first time, we weren’t able to attend a communal dawn service, and see friends afterward. I felt for all the veterans and their families, for whom the day was usually set aside to connect with each other. They must feel bereft. My daughter and I held a dawn service in our driveway, and it was haunting; the Last Post playing from my television, as we stood in silence. Daybreak was smeared with honey and saffron hues, and kookaburras started laughing. A friend mentioned that she was going to her volunteer shift at Lifeline, anticipating a busy evening. Calls have escalated since all this began, which is no great suprise. As I walked around the neighbourhood, I saw wreaths woven from rosemary, tied together with red ribbons; poppies decorating front yards. One lady had a basket of rosemary out, asking passers-by to take a sprig for remembrance.

 

I am apprehensive about the gradual return to school, and as it turns out, so are quite a few teachers and principals. The following was a post from a friend of mine at the coalface, posted with her permission:

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On a positive note, I have trained my little dog to fetch the paper and pamphlets. She hasn’t quite grasped letting it go though, demanding that I chase her! On every walk, I find that I am noticing beauty as never before. It’s as though with the absence of distractions, we’re able to appreciate beauty more readily. I hope that this remains when we come out of hibernation.

Self-Isolation, Sacrifice and Love


Last year, some friends and I were extras in an excellent Stan series called The Commons. 

It depicted isolation, the ramifications of global warming, border security and what happens when a virus is rampant in the community. We were evacuees within this odd world, and our scenes depicted life within a temporary facility, and then a huge camp, complete with a makeshift hospital and medical staff. At the time of filming, nobody had heard of Covid-19, because it wasn’t apparent in humanity. There were times when I got chills, watching the ‘fictional’ story unfold, and there were scenes where I had tears in my eyes. Some of us reached for fellow extra’s hands. I watched Series 1 on my iPad over January, from the place we were staying in the city. The dystopian themes had begun to mirror real life, with people walking around with face masks; choking smoke and bushfires decimating Australia…

Boy, has life changed since The Commons was filmed in Sydney!

I know we have all been affected by limited supplies of medications and supermarket goods. We’ve seen appalling footage of brawls and greed on display. However, there have been many more outstanding  examples of goodness.

My friend Van, has set up a group to make masks for our frontline workers, and it’s going gangbusters! If you have the skills, you can sign up here.  To request masks, join the sister group.

I have been unwell this week, and have had a bag of goodies left at my door, been gifted hand sanitiser and soap, had a fairy godmother help more than she will ever know, and had many friends message to ask if I need them to get us anything from the shops. Thank you with all my heart.

Many people I love have lost their jobs, and are in precarious situations. Personally, I have felt helpless, being unable to visit and administer hugs and comfort in person. How do we keep our spirits up? A friend messaged the other day, admitting that her anxiety was all-consuming, and she wasn’t coping at all. She was berating herself for feeling like this, and I assured her that she was having a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. For humanity, the events of 2020 are unprecedented. There is no ‘right’ emotional response, for we haven’t been here before; not on this scale.

I spent three years isolated in my room, from 15-18 years of age. I was studying via correspondence, only leaving my confines to go to hospital for surgery or procedures. There was no internet back then, so I was pretty much cut off from my peers and society. I learnt to lean in, in order to mentally survive. Here is what I did:

  • I kept a strict routine so I didn’t flounder. I wrote a timetable for each day of the week, detailing when I would exercise, eat, study, read and even watch tv. I broke it up into 30 minute segments.
  • I dressed and groomed as though I was going out to work.
  • I ensured I learnt new skills, to make the most of these years. I read about financial matters, ethical investing, different cultures, the arts, nutrition, the art of writing and so much more.
  • I prepared a bucket list of all I was looking forward to doing once this time was over. Things like taking a ferry across the harbour, visiting certain restaurants, finding ‘my tribe,’ and what I wanted my future to look like.
  • I ensured that I enjoyed my own company. This is imperative. I would make myself laugh with my own private jokes, kept myself as healthy as I could with exercise and good food, and talked to myself as I would a friend, with kindness and encouragement.
  • I made time to dream, to stare out the window and zone-out. Every creative soul requires this.

It is just my daughter and I in the household, and as I am unwell, I have to isolate from her, ensuring we aren’t in communal areas at the same time. Before she started highschool, I home-schooled her for four years, and fortunately, she is a stickler for routines too. I am so grateful that we have the internet and mobile phones to connect with society throughout this strange time. We are a lot more accessible than when I was fifteen; trying to cope with my isolation. We will get through this.

The tension was ramping up last week; we knew it was coming, an intractable period, which nothing could prepare us for. It’s a day-by-day proposition, doing what we can, when we can. Zoom and Google classroom will be our new best friends, as lessons go online, from drama and singing to dancing. It is a brave new world, and also a strange one. One day, we shall all open our front doors, run into each other’s arms, and embrace. We will celebrate each other’s birthdays in person, and file into restaurants. We will go back to the theatre and cinemas, and attend concerts. Nothing is lost forever.

 

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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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.

 

We were Gifted.


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I received a text, informing me that a mutual friend had school resources for me. She is a teacher, and had bought these resources out of her own money. Miraculously, she lives around the corner from our new house, so my daughter and I set off on foot, unaware of how hot it was outside. This angel brought crates of workbooks in from her garage, and as I leafed through them, I realized that all of them were incredibly valuable to our schooling this year. I was held spellbound as she described her work, and the hard graft involved. Teachers such as her don’t leave at 3pm, that’s for sure! Each year, she buys extra resources for the kids in her class. She also spends her own money in making the classroom a conducive environment for learning.

I was astounded when she showed me her art pad, and the drawings she has done for her students to build stories upon. She downplayed her talent, through the evidence was there in vivid colours. She confessed that she has many adult colouring-in books, to simply admire; refusing to add her mark. “You would only add to their beauty,” I insisted, and I meant it. She wrote down a list of excellent online resources after my daughter told her that she wanted to put more educational apps onto the IPad. As if all this weren’t enough, she gifted my daughter a map of the world to colour in, and drove us and our three crates home!

She has had time off these school holidays, to relax and unwind, but there have also been several shopping trips to obtain things for the school; a trip to school to decorate her new classroom, online organizing, meetings and much more. Here’s to dedicated teachers like my friend. My daughter hasn’t stopped raving about our visit, and has already set to playing the IPad games you mentioned and is now colouring in the world. Educators such as yourself give kids the world. You literally did the other day. xxx

 

 

Camping, Frogs and Friendship


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Camp was amazing! I feel that I am not the same person who left home a week ago. Staying places by myself (albeit with child), is not something I have done much of, and certainly not so far away. It was mainly to do with safety, and gradually it was born of terror. Fear isn’t a strong enough word. What if something happened? What if I fell sick? I would be all alone. Can I rely on myself? The answer was that I could. We left early afternoon, and by the time we were an hour away, dusk was folding in. I had visions of driving around in the dark, unable to find the place! “Breathe though it,” I told myself. I tremulously opened the door to our cabin and was astounded at how lovely it was. I got a great deal as it was off-season. In my adult life, I have only had a few short breaks away, all available funds going into IVF and surgeries. The kitchen was bigger than mine back home! My daughter had a great deal of fun exploring! That night, I had the best sleep I have had in years, and actually slept in! We then met our fellow campers. My daughter was asked to play spotlight by an older girl and delivered back to the cabin afterward. It meant a lot as a mum.

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She organized her social life with a little friend for the next day, and met up at 9am for putt putt golf. When we went to get supplies from the local supermarket, she found a little tree frog at the doors. She brought it back to the cabin, and lovingly placed it in a box filled with grass. She found the perfect spot to relocate him, brimming with frogs, and went by herself to release her tiny friend.

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It is officially Spring here in Australia, and whilst the sun beamed down, the swimming pool was still freezing. Things like that don’t matter to kids and she took the plunge. The women gathered as the kids played, and I found their intuitive, compassionate take on child-rearing and schooling awe-inspiring. They were my tribe, filled with artists, students, dancers and writers. We went on a koala walk, where the kids found buried treasure. The day ended at the fire pit, telling each other stories.

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The next day, we tried hula hooping. To my amazement, I could sustain a weighted hoop, once I had been taught to take a step, rather than try to swivel it (impossible with a fused back). One of the new friends I made was a single mum, with a remarkable child and 5 week old puppy. The puppy considered my cane more of a prize than the stick he was offered, and ran off with it! It took some coaxing to get it back. This mum was an astoundingly gifted artist. Mainstream school wasn’t working for her child, so she packed up their life. bought a camper van and car, and hit the road. As her child played with the kids and his puppy, I was privileged to witness a young life restored with the joy it deserved. The cruel taunts of classmates was being replaced with the reinforcement of other’s encouragement. How brave and inspiring was my new friend, to leave her old life and plunge into the unknown? I hope their lives are filled with the peace they deserve.

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We played board games in my cabin that evening, the kids overtaking us at Beat the Parents. There was much laughter and irreverence and happiness. I had nowhere to go and had abandoned my to-do list. I had stopped and was living in the moment.  I hadn’t realized how stressed I had been. I slept brilliantly when removed from it all. On the way home, we stopped at a wildlife sanctuary. My daughter loved the piglets and gravitated to them at feeding time. She also fed wallabies.

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She went on rides and we were hugged by an enormous Drop Bear! To the uninitiated, visitors to Oz are sometimes warned that koala bears drop out of trees and get quite cranky. Of course, it isn’t true!

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We could have gone out on the water and seen whales and pods of dolphins, but the days were filled with connecting, walking and resting. We came home ready to continue on, bolstered by the friendships we had made.

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School Holidays


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Being a home schooler, we still follow the school terms. My daughter gets to catch up with school friends  and relax a bit. Ironically, she begs to stay home some days, as our school term is basically filled with frequent sojourns to the city. It was lovely, stopping and having time to go to the park. To watch kids movies with friends and have a late breakfast.

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The guinea pigs have brought some wonderful people into our lives. We put out an offer for families to adopt some of them for free. It was fabulous to see the joy the kids experienced when they held their new guinea pig for the first time. I have learnt quite a bit about guinea pigs! I was pressing the wrong part of their tummy to determine if they were boys or girls. If you are pressing the correct part, something will pop out if it’s a boy! I also didn’t know that they can fall pregnant immediately after having babies! I wasn’t aware either that they are determined to be together, and to my horror, the girls broke into the boy’s run. As with everything, you learn through experience! Many guinea pigs have gone to beautiful homes, and I am treated to pictures of them being adored, which fills my heart. They have connected us to many lovely people in the community, and I will love them always for that.

Munchkin and I went on the Sydney Explorer bus with friends and ended up in Double Bay. Our friends had been wanting to do the Eastern Suburbs trip for years and we decided it was time. We had pub food and champers for lunch, then got some bargains from dress stores. Honestly, the clothing was almost as cheap as if we had gone to an op shop. We giggled as we chatted about our prior plans for the day. The park and then Bondi Beach for hot chips. The girls were so enamoured by the grand changing rooms that they didn’t mind at all. We investigated a mere block of Double Bay this day!

My daughter skated at St Marys Cathedral. The winter weather has been glorious in Sydney!
My daughter skated at St Marys Cathedral. The winter weather has been glorious in Sydney!

It was NAIDOC week in Sydney, and I took my daughter to a flag-raising ceremony. We all walked through the smoke created by Eucalyptus leaves being burnt by a man honoured to fulfil this task. We were mesmerized by the children dancing, and then we all walked together down to a farm gifted to the community. A free lunch was offered, and there was plenty to keep the children entertained. It was  a beautiful day in a beautiful town.

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We are starting the new term refreshed. I am looking forward to all that awaits us! I am learning alongside my child and have gleaned much information about our world and how it works. When she asks a question I often hurriedly seek information from Dr Google, which makes me appear smarter than I am. I am certainly going to slow down this term, and not run myself into the ground. Life is too precious for that!

Sydney Opera Centre


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A group of home schoolers met up at The Opera Centre in Surry Hills this past week. I admired opera, though my knowledge was pretty basic. I have learnt that it isn’t really an elite art, as previously thought. It is a complex mix of drama and music, and expensive to stage.  I was excited about taking my daughter to her first opera, Cinderella. Based on a score by Rossini, it had been condensed to suit children. The audience was enthralled throughout. We went to a nearby park for lunch, and I was welcomed into my new school family. Each parent had a back story as to why they started home schooling, and all were inspiring.

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Afterward, we went on a tour of the Opera Centre. It brought to life the passion and dedication of everyone from the seamstresses to the design team. I can see why it’s expensive to bring to life!

Each wig takes a week to make, every hair is hand-stitched.
Each wig takes a week to make. Every hair is hand-stitched.

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The books for the shelves are ultra-light!
The books for the shelves are ultra-light!
Model for a production
Model for a production

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Props for Aida
Props for Aida
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Okay, not just children!

 

The children were allowed to try on some of the magnificent costumes, which was a real treat!
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I am in awe of the opera singers. Their dedication to their craft is amazing. It takes vision to bring a production to life, much like individual dreams. An idea becomes a sketch, becomes a model and then a set. My daughter loves singing, and has uncovered a new way of trilling. I love that she was introduced to the many ways you can be involved in theatre. The world is yours, kid.

Grief and Homecoming (Part 2)


 

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A woman with auburn hair was walking in front of me. She was holding the hand of a little boy. For a moment, I thought it was you… I kept seeing you everywhere. In the shops, in the park. You can’t be gone! The horrible realization struck me afresh.

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You should be living in Balmain with your boys, your heart condition carefully monitored. I should be preparing to meet up with you, to share a meal for your birthday. The tears came as I sat in the park. Grief absolutely flattens you, like a tidal wave. It was a physical pain, so much so that I felt winded. What sets it off on any given day is a mystery.  I went from weeping to laughter  when I recalled you telling me about a party your eldest had attended. He was going to a religious preschool at five, and upon seeing the procession of fairies alighting from cars outside the venue, he hollered, “oh no! Not another #$%^&*# fairy party!” You were aghast, as all the mums heard him, though laughed uncontrollably on the retelling. Wiping my eyes, I went to get my daughter.

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I was bemused to receive her worksheets. She had felt sorry for Dr Karl, as he didn’t have much hair, so she thought she would style him. She asked a lot of questions about guinea pigs  which he answered concisely. When I asked why she had focused on guinea’s, she replied huffily, “they are a biology topic!”  I took her for lemon gelato, and then she climbed trees in the main street.

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We went home, and I received a message from Serena’s mum. She had sourced a Japanese Cherry tree. It became extinct in Japan and one specimen was found in an English garden in West Sussex. It was propagated from that tree (many more are now back in Japan due to this one specimen). Serena’s family were going to plant it tonight, and scatter her ashes around it. Serena was a world citizen and ardent traveller. She would have loved this. I looked through old photos, and lit a candle for my friend.
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You said in your school yearbook that you wanted to be remembered for as long as possible. Oh darling, you shall be. Until we meet again, happy birthday Serena. I hope you can hear me sing to you.

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Joy


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 We went on a tour of our town’s annual art show. It was a thrill to see the names of friend’s amongst the talented artists. My little girl was buoyant. She has settled into the new regime of home schooling superbly, and her confidence has been lifted. To be able to do things in her own time means so much for a dyslexic kid. The pressure has lifted. She ran in to find me that morning, squealing that we had new baby guinea pigs. We certainly did! Five in all.

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They are a bit cute!

Snowball is the father. Here he is munching on a corn cob. He broke into the girl's hutch, hence the surprise conception!
Snowball is the father. Here he is munching on a corn cob. He broke into the girl’s hutch, hence the surprise conception!

My little girl, I love hearing you read. I love feeling your  joy when you “get” a word. I  look forward to seeing what you are going to do in this world. I know guinea pigs, music and art will feature throughout your life, as well as birds and trees!  I am delighted that you are coming into your own. You aren’t dyslexic. Rather, you have dyslexia. It is extraordinary how much music and art, compassion and strength can be found in one little girl. I am sad about the times you felt alone, frustrated and exhausted from the dyslexia. I will do everything in my power to make sure that is never the case again. We are able to sound out words, and spell them in a song. If you go to a workshop and are struggling, the teacher lets you use symbols rather than words. It is working.

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