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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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!

Home

Two of my favorite people had devastating news this week. They live on opposite sides of Sydney, and a week ago were connected only by their association with me. Now, they have a health diagnosis in common. One is in Intensive Care, and the other is going into hospital tomorrow. If they met, I know they would adore each other. Cheeky, irreverent and making me laugh to the point of tears. I have never found a place that truly feels like home. Could it be that it is contained in people, because these two feel like home. No social niceties and pretense; you come as you are and are loved for it. 

I spent yesterday with my soul sister. She is being admitted to hospital tomorrow. We talked for fourteen hours without pause. We talked about many things, none connected. We showed each other silly pictures on our phones, my friend proudly displaying the various poses of her beloved dog. We determined that she is going to set up a blog for this pooch, to gift the world with its wisdom. We laughed at nonsense, and reflected on times gone by as we looked through old albums. Man, the times we have had! She is afraid, and I would give anything to trade places with her. I wish it was me, rather than her and my other dear friend. I would sell all my possessions if it meant they didn’t have to go through this. 

We had cups of tea and drinks of water, food and Stevie Nicks playing throughout our day, afternoon and night. I wanted my friend to stay over, and she dearly wanted to stay as well. She couldn’t, as she needed her medications, which were at her place. We prolonged the inevitable for as long as we could. “What kind of tree is that?” she asked as she looked up in my front yard. “Canadian maple, I think,” I replied. She laughed so hard, when she realized that it wasn’t, not even close. “Well, whatever it is, it’s got buds, and will be in bloom when you come next,” I smiled. We talked some more at her car, and I held her longer than normal, tearing up. “I love you so very much,” I whispered. She told me that she loved me too. 

Our Saturday was raw, intimate and real. I looked at this spectacular human in awe and wonder. She has gifted me so much. I wish my other friend could have been with us. In the morning, she will be in hospital, undergoing tests. I looked at her tiny feet and laughed, recalling when I gifted her red sequinned ruby slippers. I had to get a child’s size for her. I wish she could click those heels three times and be anywhere other than hospital. You are both my home, and I love you. You have both been through so much; this is yet another battle, of which you shall handle with your usual pizzazz. I will be there, cheering you on. If you falter in your step, I will lend you strength; all those that love you shall. You can do this. Life has only just begun.

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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.

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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