Thursday, December 31, 2009

and nine became ten

I guess it would be remiss of me not to properly farewell what's been a pretty momentous year, so on this last day of 2009 I'm taking a moment to remember how very far I've come, and my family with me. Elsa has lost teeth, grown inches (sometimes it seems like a whole foot!) and rarely lost her beautiful smile. Freya has embraced playgroup and grown inches too, but her real growth has been on the inside and I'm so proud of her for that. Randal and I have devoted most of the year to a very special project that will soon bear fruit, as it were, and I can't quite believe how close we are to meeting the new person who's going to live at our house and share it all with us. I'm torn between wanting to meet her and wanting her to stay put just for a few more days. Hoping very much for the latter, and feeling confident it will come to be.
I feel older, wiser and happier today than ever in my life. How lucky I am to be able to say that. I don't have any desire to stay up until midnight to see out this year, although it's been so good to me. I will be blissfully happy to have my comfortable bed, my children sleeping soundly in theirs and the knowledge that tomorrow is another day, another year, and anything is possible. Happy 2010.

Monday, November 16, 2009

actually it is quite a big deal

Why yes, I am most definitely pregnant. No doubts about that, even among complete strangers. Some of whom seem mildly alarmed when I tell them I'm not due until late January - the raised eyebrows are a dead giveaway. But then there are the women at the school gate who tell me how lovely I look - one even used the expression "absolutely beautiful" - and bless their hearts doesn't it make my day. I find it amazing that (some) women have this innate understanding that a pregnant woman, no matter how well her day is going, could always use a little compliment. And when she's feeling huge, tired, faint, hot, ungainly and irritable that compliment is like a bear hug for the soul. I love that there are these kinds of women in the world, and that some of them can't resist rubbing your belly and smiling. It's a source of aggravation for a lot of pregnant women but for me it's just nice to know someone appreciates what you're going through and can see beyond the sometimes mundane nature of being pregnant to the miraculous.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

whatever the weather

You might be wondering, as am I, what happened to the whole month known as September. I vaguely recall a couple of positively beautiful days that had me singing "Spring oh sweet Spring" and taking a lot of time - literally - to smell the roses. But then those days vanished, blown by the wind that clearly misread the calendar and thought it was still August. Maybe it couldn't see straight for the 10,000 tonnes of topsoil it brought with it from the region formerly known as a dustbowl (when it still had dust). Then there were several days of coldness and wetness, which I was pretty sure would not last since my birthday was just around the corner and it's October for pity's sake! Apparently with each of these annual milestones I grow more clueless about the weather.

So, last birthday I clearly recall an early morning swim at Nambucca Heads. This year the idea of swimming in anything other than hot springs was out of the question. But we did see sun, and a bit of rain, and hundreds of the most beautiful roses ever to raise their lovely heads, at a not-so-little garden not so far from here. I came home to admire my own beautiful bunch of roses, eat chocolate cake and marvel at my good fortune - my Elsa, my Freya, my Rosa and my Randal to keep me company and make it the kind of Happy Birthday you just won't find in any greeting card.

Now it's almost halfway through October, and I have three more days of work before my 58 weeks of maternity leave starts. Whatever the bureau has to say, the forecast from Friday is for blue skies.

Monday, August 17, 2009

in other growing news

This incredible flower was grown in my own garden, with very little input by me except that I planted the rose bush some years ago, in among some much older ones. It produces less than a handful of blooms each year, but it didn't half make an effort with this one. It's almost a hand-span across, and just keeps stretching out its petals, puffing out its chest. It's called a Double Delight, which is somewhat misleading since it clearly is much more delightful than that. I guess it was so named because it has two colours, but it might also be that it looks and smells totally intoxicating. And in my case, it might also be because I'm both surprised and delighted when it rewards my lack of gardening know-how with such a stunning bloom every now and again, when I least expect it. Delightful.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

now showing

Maybe it was the vegie burger I had for lunch. Or the two hot chocolates. Or the large slice of chocolate cake (it was a special occasion). But I like to think this baby is finally beginning to make its presence felt to people other than myself. Luckily I wore my new maternity jeans to lunch - $65 at Jeans West (yes, Jeans West sells maternity jeans) and oh, so comfortable. I have a new and deep appreciation for stretch cotton and waistbands that reach up to your boobs.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

truth, beauty and chaos

When I wrote about my happiness a little while ago, I mentioned (twice) that having a baby had bordered on catastrophic for my mental health. This may alarm those of you who now know that I'm pregnant with my third child, but rest assured I am not alarmed. Alert, but certainly not alarmed. There are moments, I confess, when I have a slight panic about the prospect of raising three children, of welcoming a newborn baby into our lives, which have just recently seemed to be a little smoother, in a moments-of-complete-chaos kind of way. But then I focus on why I wanted to have this baby, that feeling at my very core that believed it would be so right. It's about lots of things, but mostly it's about being true to what I believe in. Trusting myself. Sometimes when people find out my news I sense shock, or pity, or even ridicule. It's not for them to say, of course, and not for me to know if I'm just imagining it. It doesn't matter in the least when I'm focusing on the truth and beauty of the journey we're on, all the little and great things that lie within. Along with moments, I'm sure, of complete chaos. How else would we know we're alive?

Friday, July 17, 2009

the raw ingredients

I have several issues with food, the most pressing of which just lately has been that none of it is at all appetising (except maybe Kraft deluxe macaroni cheese, but whether that can technically be called food is debatable). I blame the pregnancy hormones for this latest issue, but there are many more that go way deeper than that. My biggest problem with food, however, is that I despise having to prepare it. The stress I feel taking over my body as dinner time approaches every night is akin only to that I feel when I'm sitting in a dentist's waiting room and drilling can be heard. My children are both incredibly fussy eaters and Freya has her own issues including the texture and appearance of food. She would probably be happy to eat sausages every night of her life. I probably need not mention what the smell of sausages cooking does to my nausea-addled stomach at the moment, so her sausage intake has fallen considerably in recent weeks. Another few notches added to the mother guilt.

I have tried cooking flavoursome, minimally adventurous meals for the younger set, all met with incredulous stares and point-blank refusal to eat. Frustrating doesn't even begin to cover it. So I have chosen to go the easy, conflict-free route and largely give them what they want to eat. I want them to be relaxed about food. I want them to enjoy eating, not feel like their dragon of a mother is breathing down their neck forcing them to eat. I connect food with nurturing, so my shortcomings in the cooking department weigh heavily on my perceived worth as a mother. I don't think I'm alone there. I wish I loved cooking. I wish they loved eating. But wishing doesn't help.

What has helped, surprisingly, has been a little reality TV show called MasterChef. If you haven't been living under a rock, you may have heard of it. I haven't been watching it all, but in the past few weeks have been incredibly inspired by one of the contestants, Julie. She's actually in the final two as of last night. Julie is a mother and her reason for cooking is always clear - she does it for her sons and husband, as a display of her love, and what they get out of it is nothing compared to the joy she feels in doing it for them. I so envy her that ability to cook, and to have such a healthy emotional connection with the process. It's been such an eye opener to hear her speak so passionately about cooking. And it makes me think maybe I can be like that one day. I normally hate ''foodies'' but something about MasterChef is so real, and so fascinating, that the egos fade into the background and it's really just about the skill of cooking, creating sustenance for other people to enjoy. I haven't been able to eat much in the way of appetising food lately, but I've loved watching other people make it.

I had a glimpse of Julie's motivation just the other day, when I was icing a cake I'd baked for Elsa's seventh birthday. I make one every year, and every year I want it to be special. Not in a three-tiered, elaborately decorated way but in a real way. I want it to look lovely, to be delicious, and to let her know that I love her so much and I want her birthday to be as fantastic as she is. It was that feeling that I put into every spatula stroke of the pale pink icing as I finished her seventh birthday cake, and I was so grateful for it. Small steps, admittedly, but maybe one day I'll be feeling that same way as I serve up a creamy risotto or a rustic vegetable lasagne for my girls and they say "Thanks Mum, that looks delicious!"

Happy birthday my darling girl.

PS: If you'd like to talk to me, you can now comment without needing a blogger sign-on. It's open slather. Please be nice.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

me again. remember me?

Has it been two months already? Really? I guess I should write something down then. The happiness conference went swimmingly, was quite an experience and I'm glad I went, despite the frequent panic attacks and crying that went on behind the closed doors of my huge but fishbowl-like apartment in the centre of Hell - I mean Sydney. And about two weeks later some lovely Buddhist monks came directly to Newcastle to create a sand mandala and spread the message of happiness in a week-long engagement at City Hall - 20 minutes from home. I chose to take this as a sign from the universe that I need not look too far from myself to find that which I am seeking. It shouldn't be that hard. Sometimes it's right under your nose.

There's been a few other things happening of late. Namely, I'm expecting my third child and battling the nausea that I had completely forgotten about - a lot like labour, I'm guessing, but it's a bit late when you're in the delivery room to say "Sorry, hadn't thought this one through.'' I had been feeling comparatively sprightly in the past couple of weeks but in recent days actual vomiting has been involved. Since I'm 12 weeks on Wednesday, I'm assuming the sun will shine brighter that morning, birdsong will ring out and all signs of the sickness will be a distant memory. That's very much the assumption I'm holding onto, actually, if the universe is reading this, and I'll be awfully disappointed if reality doesn't match up. I'm also anticipating a return to the consumption - and enjoyment - of real food. This includes tea of the milky, sugary kind that I have savoured practically every day of my life since I was five. Which I can no longer even smell without wanting to throw up.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

the pursuit of happiness

My happiness is a work in progress. I’ve struggled with depression since I was a teenager, hit rock bottom in my early 20s just when life seemed to be giving me everything I’d ever wanted, used medication, found it didn’t have all the answers, had a baby and teetered on the edge of the abyss again, used medication again just to keep my head above water, had another baby and fell so far into the abyss I thought I might never get out, used medication as a lifeline and eventually realised that there had to be more to it than that.

So here I am, more than 18 months after pushing aside the medication option and putting everything I had into the alternative. I’ve learned more about myself in that time than I knew going into it, and while I still have my bad days, they are much less frequent and when they come I am ready for them.

I work at my happiness now, but as time goes on it takes less and less conscious effort. There are things that I know will make me happy, and not in a superficial way. They make my soul happy, and stave off the blackness. It feels like the happier my soul is, the more resistant it is to the blackness. It’s multiple coats of Teflon, every colour of the rainbow. Sometimes it helps to make a list:

1. Go outside. Feel the sun, or the wind or the rain as the case may be, on your face. It’s called nature and some days it’s your best friend.
2. Put some music on. Dance. Sing if you know the words.
3. Learn the words. To anything - Somewhere Over the Rainbow, My Favourite Things, Morningtown Ride - and sing them. Loud.
4. Write it down. All of it.

Next week I’m going to a conference in Sydney called Happiness and Its Causes, mainly because when I saw the flyer for it some months ago I just knew I had to get there somehow. So now I’m going, and I don't want to leave my family for two days and two nights but I have a feeling I will not regret it. Part of me is still frightened by the world out there but I’m on the journey now and there is no going back. Enduring stress to find happiness? Let’s just say it’s par for the course.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The older I get, the more my childhood seems to be like another country. I have the photos to prove I've been there, the crystal-clear memories that allow me to recreate whole days down to the smell and the fabric on the lounge cushions. But I can never go back there, and I will always want to, if only for a few minutes, until the day I die.
The place I really long for is my grandmother's house at Lennox Head, and when I say it was on the beach I mean the front yard was sand. It's not there any more, there's a row of millionaires' beach pads where the nasturtiums used to be, but then I'm not 5 any more either, unless I really concentrate. Then I'm back there, summer holidays, long walks on the beach with the dogs every morning and afternoon, classical music on the radio, storms at sea, Enid Blyton books, pumice stones in the shower, wooden floorboards dusted with sand, shells and driftwood drying on the timber deck. The smell of old books and seagrass matting. The calm.
We've just spent a few days on the south coast, somewhere I had never been before. I found a B&B on the internet and booked it because it looked beautiful and something about it felt right. And because they had a labrador and two cats - the clincher. We have a labrador named Sunday, and I figured we'd be missing him so it might be nice to have another one around as a stand-in. She was chocolate. Her name? Sundae. Universal sign number one, you might say. Turned out this little B&B was probably the closest thing I'll ever get to revisiting my grandmother's beach house, and thus my own childhood. The bookshelves were packed, the matting was seagrass. Shells and driftwood on every flat surface. And calm.
We walked on Hyams Beach on a beautiful sunny day, and I could have kept walking for hours. I only wished I'd had a labrador or two with me. That would have made it beyond perfect. But I was revelling anyway in the knowledge that sometimes roads lead you somewhere you've never been before, and it's as though you never left.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

for fox sake

I love foxes, which causes some dismay for my more 'country' friends, who see them as beastly killers, chicken blood dripping from their murderous fangs. Me, I'm not so big on chickens.
Last week I went hunting, Ikea-style, and I wasn't on horseback but this handsome devil just had to come home with me. I bought one for each of the girls but Freya, having spent just one night with hers, informed me she did not care for him. Maybe because he is not wearing pink and he is not a cat, but I'm only guessing.
So I claimed him for my own, what else was I to do? And now he sits beside my computer, his sly eyes following my every move. I throw him a live chicken every now and then. He seems happy.

Monday, March 9, 2009

as pure as the driven snow

This conversation took place yesterday as we (more specifically, I) tried to rationalise the glut of Barbie dolls and other plastic paraphernalia that has found its way into our house. In the process, Elsa rediscovered her two Snow White barbies and all seven of the freakish little dwarves, which she mercifully reunited with their clothing.

Elsa: Can you put these undies back on Snow White? The other Snow White already has undies on. Snow White always has to wear undies.
Me: Of course she does.

I figured it was a little too early to start talking reputations with a six-year-old.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

no, he wasn't wearing a kilt

I haven't been to the dentist for a very long time. Just how long became apparent today, when I finally fronted for my half hour of torture and realised that some things have actually improved. The place itself was more airport lounge than dental surgery, although that old familiar smell - equal parts fear and fluoride - left me in no doubt I was in the right place. The 'nurse' (actually she used that word, not me) looked roughly 19 years old and seemed a little embarrassed, or maybe just perplexed, at her role in proceedings. I was a tad perplexed myself. How can somebody born in the late 1980s be saying things like: "I'll be your nurse today''. Yes. And technically I could be your mother.
Enter Mr Dentist, who unlike any dentist I've ever encountered, was relatively young (though thankfully from Gen X, not Y), had a dazzling smile, was really quite cute and was Scottish. Tick, tick, tick. Let's just say he had me at hello.
There have been quite a few dentists in my past, through no fault of my own since I just happened to grow sub-standard teeth and far too many of them to fit comfortably in my mouth. Almost all my dental visits were arranged, attended and paid for by my mother, because I was too young to have a say. Thank goodness for mothers.
When it fell to me to arrange my own dental hygiene, brushing twice a day was generally the maximum commitment I was prepared to make. I had the odd check-up here and there, but aside from the general hideousness of all dental surgeries, there were the old, balding dentists with bad breath, the uncomfortable eye contact, the maniacal buzz of the tiny drill ... it is no accident that people hate going to the dentist. When I say people, I mean me.
But today I was in for a treat. Not only did Mr Cute Scottish Dentist wear a surgical mask while he stared into my gaping mouth, thus sparing me any shattered illusions should his breath not smell like 12-year-old single malt, he also issued me (should I say ''the nurse'' issued me) with sunglasses. Apparently for the glare from the overhead light, but I've stared into enough of those babies to know there's not much your eyes have to worry about, it's your teeth that need to be afraid.
My stunning aviator-style black plastic numbers (no, they could not have been less flattering) enabled me to avoid the awkward scenario where you try not to look directly into the eyes of the man who is looking directly into your molars. Let's just say there's not much else you can focus on when their entire head is obscuring your view.
So there I was, shades on, thinking: "This is not so bad''. Even the fluoride treatment, which used to contain a ''flavour'' that instantly induced vomiting, was bearable. Could it be I'm turning into a grown-up? Needless to say, I didn't ask my nurse.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

the art of self-preservation

I’m not so much avoiding my children as practising self-preservation. It’s a new thing to me, the whole ‘live in the now’ concept, but I have to say it makes sense. Do not fret about what’s for dinner, what dreadful future emotional suffering you’re putting your kids through by letting them watch four DVDs in a row on a day not unlike that on which the Ark was first considered. Forget about it. Let it rain. Let their eyes go temporarily square. Let your awareness rise above the fact you are wearing a 10-year-old cardigan that’s seen better days, tracksuit pants that are clearly not in any way flattering and may be one size too small and ugh boots (enough said). If you look within yourself, you will see the real thing. This may mean removing yourself, if not physically then at least psychologically, from the room. Even from the building. Do not feel guilty about this. It’s in everyone’s best interests. Find your centre and focus on it for a few minutes. Breathe deeply and concentrate on feeling good about yourself. Not about exterior sensations or kind deeds or even perceived character strengths. This is not about any of that. This is about the blood that’s pumping through your veins. The air in your lungs that keeps your heart beating. The essence of what it means to be alive. You have all of these things and you need to be aware of them, even if it’s only for a fraction of time. As long as it’s enough to get you connected again to that which is truly you. Say hello to your higher self and remember they are always with you. Mentally puff our your chest, put your chin up and resolve to carry on. You are never alone and you are always strong and wise and doing what you’re meant to be doing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

new beginnings

There are very few things that will get me out of bed, with my eyes open, at 3.30am. In fact there are only two I can think of. One is a crying baby that needs to be fed. The other is Barack Obama.

I set my alarm, crawled onto the lounge and watched one man bring 2million people to a freezing city so they might bask in the warmth of his glow. And I'm not ashamed to say I was basking right along with them.

Four years earlier, almost to the minute, I was bringing my new baby girl into the world. I had been waiting a long time to meet her, but it was her patience that had been most tested. When the opportunity came she was here in an instant, and there were moments of fear and chaos before that tiny body was finally mine to hold.

She is still fighting to do things on her terms, and sometimes I can literally see the fear and chaos that the world represents to her. I want to protect her from it all, of course, but ideally I want to teach her that she can handle it. Better than she knows.

Today I received my first lesson in an anthroposophy course. It feels good to be learning again at a time when the whole world seems ready to change and flourish.

It seems to me there is no such thing as false hope. There is only hope.

Happy birthday, my darling Freya.

Friday, January 9, 2009

some days are diamonds

I want to turn the whole thing upside down
I'll find the things they say just can't be found
I'll share this love I find with everyone
We'll sing and dance to Mother Nature's songs
I don't want this feeling to go away

- Jack Johnson

Sometimes it's just background music. Sometimes it's a little bit more than that. And sometimes it just gets you in the pit of your stomach and your whole world stands still. Today I heard someone talking about one of their favourite songs, a small but breathtaking love song. They said they thought it could stop a city. I wish I'd thought of that.

I've been laying low for a while, doubting the value of words in general and mine in particular. But then I hear people talking, singing, and it's like stumbling across the Hope Diamond in the sandpaper aisle at Bunnings. You've just got to seek out the diamonds in the rough.

This feeling that I don't want to go away? At its core it's intense and unshakeable and it defies any kind of logic or mechanical thought you might want to apply to it. It only fades when my awareness of it radiates outward, into the mundane and the world where everybody else is sitting in judgement. I'm clinging to it for dear life, just hoping I can make it real.