A Wedding Brimming with Love


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My daughter and I attended the wedding of a dear friend a short while ago. It was fortunately scheduled exactly a week before wild weather flooded our area, making road closures necessary. In the spirit of the couple, the wedding was held inside a barn, and had a rustic, low-key vibe. There was even a photo booth! I trembled at the sight of my friend being escorted down the aisle by her teenage son. She looked gorgeous, in a beaded gown the hue of champagne. It was made all the more precious because at one time, my friend teetered on the precipice of hell. Through her own tenacity, she found her way through, and into a life beyond her wildest dreams. Her fellow had sent her a random Facebook message, and they had started chatting, this stranger and her. I have never seen a woman look happier, nor a groom look more at peace. It was an honour to be there. They held a sand ceremony, where each of the family poured coloured sand into a decanter, symbolizing their bond.

The reception was held in a country town’s community hall, and old-fashioned games were set up for the kids. They didn’t stop playing all afternoon! The adults talked of their hopes and visions of the future, and lovely connections were formed. This was my kind of wedding! Informal and fun, love infusing the air as the sun beamed down.

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Happy endings are achievable. It often requires a risk; a suspension of disbelief. Happy endings are possible. My friend taught me that.

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A week in my life from twelve years ago (Part One)


I found the following pages that I wrote around twelve years ago. This was long before I became a mother; long before my child was in the school system and long before she was found to be dyslexic. I was around ladies who had been wounded in childhood, and through their own tenacity, had survived. I was around women over eighty whom I wanted to emulate in older years. Apparently, I never did like party plans! Reading through my summary of this particular week has me convinced that there are signposts along the way, indicating where we shall find ourselves, and who we are destined to become.

‘I gave Irma some photos, and she adored the images of her three friends, but at 83 years of age, was terribly critical of herself. “My neck is so wrinkled!” she cried. This distressed me, as I admire her in her deep-blue suit, straw hat atop her soft white hair.

We picked up Helen at the hostel. She is a strawberry-blonde with an impish face. She was excited on her 60th birthday; the giddy enthusiasm of a lady who has rarely had a birthday celebrated. We took her to see Murta in the nursing home. Helen leant over, and gave the grand lady a kiss. “I am praying to be taken home to heaven,” 99 year old Murta advised. “I just don’t understand why he has left me here!” “We cant bear to let you go yet,” I whispered. “When a nurse, the tea or cleaning lady enters your room , you greet them so warmly. You make them feel important and loved. You listen to them; you are doing important work.” Her eyes rimmed with tears as she talked about her dear friend Rex, who had recently died. “I had known him since he was a boy; long before he married Gwen…I have a card here to send to her, and I just don’t know what to say! I shall miss Rex forever. How can we go on without him?”

I took her hand, “write what you just said. Rex was one of your dearest friends; tell Gwen about the times you recall; the qualities that summed him up.” Murta clapped her hands. “What a wonderful idea! Yes, I shall!” She praised my woollen jacket, and I remarked that I had recently bought it. “Arent you a bloated capitalist?” she teased, then nodded approvingly when I said that it had only cost a few dollars at the opportunity shop. She looked wistful as we farewelled her. “Yes, I am here for a while longer… I must be patient.”

Murta at seventeen in the '20's
Murta at seventeen in the ’20’s

I took Helen to dinner. She talked of the health difficulties which made her walk with a cane, and of future surgery needed for cancer. No fuss, just the facts. She would have brushed away sympathy. A lady who had lived in scores of orphanages would never have it in her mind that those who love her want to care for her and are actually interested in the goings-on in her life. She devoured her dinner as though it were her last meal, and I carefully inquired as to where she had lived. “All over; Queensland, Melbourne and Sydney. I lived in  fifty homes…” Her voice grew soft. “Sometimes, I got warm flannelette sheets. They would hit me if I was naughty;didn’t make my bed properly or forgot to scrub my face. But, they gave me flannelette sheets sometimes.” It were as though her mind was torn between the memory of the beatings and the comfort of the sheets. Why can’t the nightmare people be bastards all the time? Why must they confuse with gifts and smiles before bearing down with fists?

Helen’s parents had given her away, and kept her younger sister. She holds no bitterness, for she is a sixty year old child. She shall never be old and embittered, a hard crust forming around her heart. Her eyes focused on a spot on the wall, as though she were being pulled into the past. To bring her back, I started a roaring rendition of ‘Happy Birthday.’ A fellow at the next table sang along, and I smiled in appreciation. The more folks made a fuss of Helen, the better. A lady volunteered to take our picture, and Helen had a smile as wide as the Harbour Bridge.

I was invited in when I dropped Helen back at the hostel. Dolls were seated at the dining table and across her bed. She introduced them all by name. Some had name tags pinned on their dresses so she wouldn’t forget. There was an enormous board over the telephone with important details of bank accounts and numbers written in big letters by her social worker. She brought out her little budgie, and excitedly showed us what she had bought herself for her birthday. Snow White and the seven dwarfs stood inside a box, waiting for Helen to find them a place.

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Postscript: Helen and Murta have been gone for a long while now, but left a gold-embossed stamp on my heart. I am so glad that Helen got to meet my daughter. Murta passed when I was going through IVF.

Valentine’s Day


I minded a friend’s little girl the weekend just past. It had been a sad week leading up to it, as we had lost our budgie to old age. I was feeling a bit low, as was my daughter. The two girls set to making craft, and I was ushered out of the room. On Valentine’s Day, I was instructed to keep my eyes shut, whilst they led me outside…

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The girls had strewn rose petals into heart formations. The fan was to help calm me when my spinal pain is severe. My little girl had written me a note, and it said, ‘I know how hard you tried to have me so I am doing this very small thing for you.’ These two gave me the greatest gift I have ever had. The other little girl couldn’t wait to give her mum the things she had made either.
             We had a special dinner, baking whole orange cakes. The girls had fun decorating them, and eating the leftover cream cheese icing!    

  
Love comes to us in many forms. It appears as an animal, a song or a tree providing shade. It comes forth within a friend. The love I felt from these two precious girls on Sunday morning  was  enough to keep me soaring throughout 2016.  I had expected nothing for Valentine’s Day, and these two had given me everything.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Easter


You can’t breathe life into someone who is lost. Believe me, I have tried. I have been privy to someone I care deeply about being taken down. At first by addiction, and then mental illness. I am grieving although the person lives.  If you are not careful, their reality becomes yours, a closeted,  nonsensical, grey world. It holds no colour, no engagement, no life. I could feel myself becoming pulled into the mayhem this Easter. A land where money is of no consequence, rules are for other people, and laying down staring at the ceiling is what one does for 48 hours. If you are caring for somebody in this situation, coaxing them to eat, to live, to fight, can be exhausting. Best be careful that you don’t go down too. You don’t see it happening. I didn’t. I ate Hot Cross Buns in the city Good Friday, then spent all day Saturday in bed. A smothering film of depression clung to me. I was exhausted. Giving, giving, giving until I was bone dry. The rest did me good. Not having to think. “Please, don’t ask me any more questions,” I pleaded.

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Easter Sunday, the torrential rain stopped and the sun came out. I went to Ashfield Uniting Church. My sanctuary. Rev Bill Crews feeds the homeless via a soup kitchen and van. Via the Exodus Foundation, kids who have fallen behind are educated, and a new school is being opened in Liverpool. Each Christmas, there is a free lunch and it is a grand affair, with a cast of thousands! They do so much at Ashfield, and have changed many lives.

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This treasured lady is 98 years of age. She walks everywhere, lives in her own home, and takes a great interest in social issues. I want to be like her when I grow up!

We went to lunch afterward, and munchkin met the Easter Bunny and his assistant!

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Rev Bill was off to Hong Kong and then Cambodia, so she gave him a big cuddle before he left.

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Nobody pretends to be perfect here, to have it altogether. We muddle through life, and that is enough. You are still loved. Isn’t that reassuring? No titles need to be proclaimed, no diamonds flashed, no mention of private jets. No pontificating. I don’t think you would get away with it if you tried! It was a happy Easter indeed.

Kindness.


There has been grief, deep and all-consuming. In the midst of sleepless nights and exhaustion, Serena’s loved ones have also been gifted kindness. There was the little lady-a friend of mine- who cooked a wholesome meal, and took it around to people she didn’t know. Messages from people desperate to help in any way that they can, and gifts left on my doorstep, along with cards beautifully scripted. The day of the funeral, a friend put together five platters of sandwiches and wraps and delivered them to the house, so the mourners had nourishment at lunchtime. Cupcakes in Camden baked this beautiful cake.

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The mother bird cake topper was made by Jan Wallace and shall be treasured forever.

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Cupcake’s little girl did this picture for me, complete with my now-departed pink walking stick.

A lady from school gave me these two bags for Serena’s little boys.

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Another dear lady came to my door with this angel. I showed Lizzie at the school gate and she ran home to put it on the tree. She knew it represented Serena.

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The school which Serena’s eldest son attends sent this beautiful tribute, with each child’s name placed on the display.

10846646_873263932707453_1770918831_nSo much kindness. People who never knew her are grieving. They want to reach out. They need to. It helps. Darling girl, I hope you can see how loved you are. Always were and always will be.

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Never Assume.


We have all done it. Assumed that someone has the perfect marriage, family, home, career, life. Time has taught me to leave presumptions and assumptions at the door. I knew a successful couple through a charity I was involved in. The lady was the life of the party, hosting many events, always surrounded by people, a glass of champagne in  hand. I heard that she needed to go to hospital, for surgery on what they believed was cancer. “You have to go be with her, Raphie,” a little voice insisted. I told that voice that it was silly, that she would have scores of people at the hospital as she checked in. The voice wouldn’t let me be, so I put together a little pack of toiletries and magazines, and made my way to the private hospital. I had to look twice to make sure the little hunched-over  lady in the backless gown was her, sitting all alone. When she saw me, she burst into tears. She was there by herself, alright. It was then and there that I threw my presumptions regarding someone’s life into the garbage, where they belonged. The amount of times I have visited people in hospital, to have them burst into tears that somebody actually came, is astounding. We tell ourselves that we don’t want to intrude. That there will be scores of friends and family surrounding the individual. Believe me, it is often not the case.

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Through the charities I have been involved in, I have learnt that many of those folks living in freshly made  homes in brand new suburbs are under housing stress. They can’t afford electricity payments to their abode’s, let alone curtains. The necessities are bought on credit, and teeth are neglected, dentists considered  a luxury. No life is perfect, and much is hidden from public view. It is not out of deceit. Rather, pride and bravery and temerity. Not wanting to burden others with our darkness. Sometimes, it is hard to find the words to explain what we are going through. I have been through one of the darkest times of my life in the past eighteen months. I have retreated and gone to ground, been severely depressed and had months without rest. Yet I still have commitments. I have to front up to daily activities, my makeup on, dressed in fresh clothes. You bet I smile. I contain the sadness within. I don’t want it spilling out in front of unsafe people, and within the pleasantries of a social event. There have been times I have been down to my last dollar, and wondered how on earth I was going to provide the basics that week. There have been times I have been on the floor, unable to move.  There have been days when I have rocked myself on the sofa, curtains drawn. There have been times I have worked on projects for twelve hours straight, for weeks on end. When we ask if somebody is okay, we need to listen for the answer. Often its told through body language, changes in behaviour and routine. Leave your presumptions behind, and gently rap on their door. Go visit the hospital. Befriend the one who appears to have the glittering life.

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When you see me about, enjoying a festival or other event, it is because I have managed to squirrel away a little money, and have found a small pocket of time to get out and relax. My child and I need the theatre and art for our oxygen, giving us the focus to stay on track regarding our goals and dreams. It is not a perfect life. It can be immensely painful, soul-destroying and sad, like any other life. So when you see the pictures on Facebook, and read the update about a friend’s holiday, perhaps spend a moment thinking of how long they have saved, what they are needing to escape from, and what is beneath the surface. We have our own Atlantis lurking beneath the image. Be kind and be alert.

My Friend in her Nineties.


We used to go down to Ashfield Uniting Church each Sunday, a trip that took an hour each way. It was worth the travel, to see our friends and be a part of a wonderful community. A dear little lady, Joan, joined the community, and had a vibrancy about her. Shortly after I discovered I was pregnant, she slipped me a card. It was addressed to “The lady with the long blonde hair, who brings her little dog to church.” Mitzi Winstopple- our miniature schnauzer-adored our Sundays and we made sure he was always a part of it. I opened the card, to read of her delight that I was having a baby. It touched my heart so. Eight years later, Joan is still in contact, and in her late nineties. She still lives independently and is a source of inspiration to me. Her recent letter, “Your daughter is a miracle baby-one that was born despite hardships. You would have enjoyed the Bill Crews Trust Film Festival that was on last month. Very provocative films-social themes to make you think and perhaps change your views.” How wonderful that a woman in her nineties embraces change and loves being challenged! Salt of the earth.

Another dear soul I think of often is Betty. She was in her eighties when we met, and everyone thought I was her granddaughter as we had the same features. She was so excited on hearing I had given birth, that she took two trains and a bus to come visit. She ended up in our town, wandering the streets. A dear couple took her home, fed her, then dropped her into a mutual friend’s store. This lady in turn, locked up her store, and drove Betty around. The joy when she picked my daughter up… It still fills me with overwhelming gratitude, that a dear elderly lady went to such lengths to celebrate my daughter arriving. Bless all the feisty, spirited older ladies. Now and always.

Betty.
Betty.

My Daughter.


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Eyes dabbed with cornflower ink,
Sprinkled with Herkimer diamonds.
Curls prepared from sandalwood shavings.
Cherubim cheeks and rosebud mouth.
A dear little girl sent from heaven.
We whisper in a language known only to a mother and child.
Your visage is my inspiration to cope, to work, to live.

Darling girl, who dreams of butterflies and fairies.
Beautiful girl, who plays until the sun grows tired.
Beloved of the heavens and earth.
The angels chorused when you were born,
“This child shall do extraordinary things!”
I can feel it.
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Your spirit radiates like a blazing sun,
It exudes the promise of joy everlasting.
I can’t wait to see the woman you become.
The charming, confident, assured young lady.