Right from birth, Karen had never understood her creative, dreamy daughter, Matilda. A marine biologist, her entire world was classified into the natural order of things while Matilda didn’t fit into any category, and she couldn’t get a diagnosis!
“Matilda!” she screamed after stepping on a wet painting.
Battling long covid, now more than ever she questioned:“Why couldn’t I have a normal child?”
Karen fell into her chair, immediately leaping to her feet. The neck of Matilda’s violin had snapped like a dead man hanging from a noose, and Karen had become “The Scream”.
I was delighted to see this week’s prompt as I play the violin, although I stop well short of calling myself a violinist these days. Practice had dropped off before my lessons stopped during covid, but I’ve been picking it up a bit again lately and am practicing Peter Allen’s hit: “I Still Call Australia Home”. My mother used to play it on the piano and I’m wanting to play it with her and I really do love the words of the song.
When I was growing up, Mum would occasionally lose patience with the eccentricity of the rest of us and ask: “Why can’t this family be normal?” Mum played things pretty much by the book but the rest of us didn’t even know where to find it. As it turned out, in my mid-20’s I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus and had a shunt inserted to sort things out. Being creative, I wasn’t exactly “fixed” but I was a new improved version of myself and at least I wasn’t falling over all the time.
It wouldn’t surprise me if my husband had told me not to leave my violin on a chair in case someone sat on it; and I’m probably lucky my violin’s still in one piece.
My apologies for a bit of an absence. Let’s just say that time runs away from me and I’m staggering along breathless in its wake.
How are you all and what’s been going on in your neck of the woods?
Well, it’s still Spring here on the Australian East Coast. While there’s the odd roasting, much of the time it’s been unseasonably cool, and we’ve had a bit of rain. I haven’t braved a swim at the beach yet, but did get down for a delightful walk last week on a perfect sunny day and felt so much better for it.
Meanwhile, we’ve had quite a bit on.
Firstly, last Saturday a close friend of ours got married. I also had my 35th school reunion at same afternoon. So I splurged on a new dress, some strappy wedge heels and an overnight bag to stay with my friend, Glenda. Couldn’t believe that Mum was actually going to be staying with a friend for a sleepover. How could that be? Had I escaped into the realm of miracles? Of course, it’s not just responsibilities on the home front which have kept me grounded, but more likely covid and the dreaded lockdowns. So, it felt particularly good to get out there in my glad rags, see my friends married and catch up with the girls at the reunion.
Secondly, Miss Ballerina is back en pointe after snapping a ligament in her ankle a few months ago which had her hanging up her dance shoes for about six weeks (or at least the right one) and having weekly physio appointments. Before all that transpired, she’d done her Grade 8 ballet exam and received a High Distinction. Last Friday, she finally did her Intermediate Foundation exam after being stuck in suspended animation for the last three years, while she was also doing Advanced. Clearly, she’s been busy! The end of year concert is coming up now, along with the inevitable farewells which are getting harder and harder as each year goes by and they’re all getting older and leaving school. Two close friends will be leaving at the end of this year and moving away. Miss has one year left at school and the local dance school and then she’ll be fleeing the coop as well and heading goodness knows where.
Thirdly, Geoff and I headed off to the Tiny Homes Expo at Tuggerah yesterday and had a very interesting day where our minds were opened up to a host of incredible possibilities. However, rather than buying a tiny home, we ended up buying a new bed with all the bells and whistles and I can’t wait for it to arrive. If you’d like to read more about Tiny Homes, here’s a link to my post: Explorations Into Tiny Homeland on Australia’s East Coast.
Well, that’s all from me for now and I look forward to hearing what you’ve been up to.
Yesterday, I visited my parents for the first time in a year. Geoff was going down to work, and so he dropped me off on the way, and I was expecting to be there for a good six hours. Well, I can assure you that even after not seeing me for a year, my Dad didn’t think he could talk for that long, although their was the possibility my mother could, but she sleeps irregular hours and so she was also a bit of an unknown quantity. The other thing I came to consider, is that they’ve had very little face-to-face contact with anyone since Sydney went into lockdown last June and so even having their dearest daughter land on their doorstep for the day might’ve been overwhelming, and my Dad recently had an operation as well and so isn’t in prime form either. I guess it suffices to say they’re in their late 70’s and have slowed down a bit.
I packed a book and my journal and looked forward to playing the piano. However, it was a glorious sunny day and they have a magnificent cottage style garden which is quite a camellia wonderland. Indeed, now in the depths of Winter, the camellias are in flower and were absolutely beautiful. As you walk down their driveway, there’s what I think is a Ted Craig Reticulata which is 15 centimetres in diameter and absolutely magnificent. To use a classic quote from Kath & Kim, it’s shouting out: “Look at me! Look at me!” it’s hard not to.
Their garden also has quite a few deciduous trees and there was some stunning yellow Autumn leavers out the front and the neighbours have a towering Liquid Amber which is now mostly a skeleton of branches and all those leaves have fallen somewhere and been swept or raked away. I dare say, many of them have dropped in my parents’ garden and while I was there, I found myself sweeping the front steps until I found myself down on the driveway. It was alright when I started out. I seemed to be making progress. However, a wind had come along and it was literally snowing leaves and they were almost falling faster than I could sweep them away. Of course, I started to see a sort of futility in all of this. Do I end up becoming a sweeper just to keep up with the never-ending tide of leaves or do I simply leave them be? Well, it’s easy for me to say, because I don’t live there and we don’t have any deciduous trees here, except our jacaranda but it rains purple flowers instead. That’s why I guess sweeping up all those Autumn leaves was such a thought-provoking novelty. It’s not something I usually think about.
Anyway, I wanted to share that going round and working on your parents’ garden can be a great way of spending time with or around them while not being underfoot or tiring them out too much. My uncle showed me the way here. He used to go round and work on my grandfather’s garden. This way you can have a chat and a cup of tea, do some gardening. Have another chat and maybe even talk about the garden or they could sit out their with you too.
By the way, I should also mention that I took over some Date and Apricot All Bran Muffins which they love. Home baked treats also keep to make a visit special.
Are you into gardening at all? Or perhaps you have elderly parents. What enhances your visits? It would be great to share some ideas and special memories.
No one knew his real name. Everyone just called him “Noah”. Convinced a great deluge was coming, he’d built a stone fortress on an isolated hill 20 kilometres out of Lismore, and sat tight. One day, to humour his antagonists, he stuck a shingle out the front: The Ark. He didn’t care what anyone thought. He had his truth, and that was enough.
Finally, the deluge hit. No one was laughing at Noah now. They were all turning up in droves. Yet, how could he make enough room at the inn, and who was he going to save?
This story was inspired by the devastating floods which have been ravaging Australia’s East Coast for at least a couple of weeks, and the rain has gone on for an eternity. I don’t think I can remember anything like it.
I haven’t been following the coverage closely. However, the floods are the worst on record in the city of Lismore in Northern NSW.
Here are a couple of news articles if you’re interested:
This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields https://rochellewisoff.com/ Every week, we write 100 words or less to a photo prompt and the results always astound me. I’ve found it incredibly worthwhile.
Well, I know I’m really stretching the truth a very long way, by even suggesting that our dearly beloved Border Collie x Kelpie, Isaac Newton (mostly known as Zac) has been over to Ireland this week, and more specifically to to the quaint little village of Carrigaholt in West Clare. If ever there was fake news, this had to be it. However, I was checking out Carrigaholt myself via Google Earth and whizzing along all sorts of country roads and photographing derelict old farm houses, when Zac stood right next to the screen and got beamed up into the story.
I know that travelling from Sydney to Carrigaholt might sound rather random, and in my usual style, it sort of is. However, my Great Great Grandfather, Edward Quealey, was born in nearby Lisheenfurroor, and it was late the other night and I wandered off to check it out and ended up in Carrigaholt. Indeed, I feel like it was all meant to be.
Meanwhile, I’m hoping some doors open up soon for me to physically get to Ireland. Australia’s had our borders closed for almost two years, and we’ve had young kids and health issues to consider, but now more than ever I just want to get on a plane after doing all this exploring.
Have you ever been to Ireland? Where did you go? How was it? I’m like a sponge and could just soak Ireland up, although it could be a bit cold for me at the moment. That said, it’s been quite hot here over the last couple of days. I am very grateful for the air-conditioning.
How are you? Hope was your week? I hope it went well.
My week has rushed by in a blur, and it feels like I’ve done nothing, achieved nothing and have simply been hovering in suspended animation. That’s not depression talking, butt more a state of conscious forgetfulness. Where was I last week? What happened’/ sometimes, it’s also a case of : “Who am I?” and it’s just as well my name is written down somewhere close by to remind me.
The reality is that I was actually rather busy. We are a family of four humans and three dogs. My husband works in IT for a university in Sydney with a hospital attached and has been the only network engineer available to go on site because his colleague is unvaccinated. Two people is pretty understaffed anyway, but with the overseas students being axed for the last two years, the universities have been a severe casualty in so many ways and the axe has been falling everywhere. We also have two teenagers – our son is now 17 and has always been known as “Mister” on here but he turns 18 in March, and has rather outgrown it. Miss is now 15 and working part-time at McDonalds and still dancing up a storm. So, we’ve been busy with end of year dance concerts, Geoff has end of year Christmas parties this week and I actually managed to post 17 Christmas cards.
Are you sending actual physical Christmas cards this year? Do you write a Christmas newsletter? These have always been big traditions for me. However, I don’t believe I sent more than a couple of Christmas cards over the last two years and I might have forgotten to email out my Christmas newsletter last year.
I’ve pulled my socks up this year, because I’ve realised that these Christmas cards are doing so much more than simply adding to Hallmark’s coffers every year. They help us to stay connected to a host of people who still mean the world to us, but we don’t see very often. They’re particularly important with people who aren’t online or Facebook. I don’t tend to ring people just for a chat anymore like I used to either. Here in Sydney we’ve had that massive four month lockdown. We live a bit North of Sydney in what in termed Greater Sydney. Now, Geoff is usually commuting to Sydney five days a week for work and I’d be down there at least once a month. However, we’ve only been down there once since the end of June and that was to see my parents and brother. We didn’t go anywhere else. We’ve also been laying low at home, and haven’t been back to physical Church so that’s a whole different swag of people we’re not seeing. So, the Christmas cards and the newsletter feel particularly important this year. We need to connect!
The weather has been pretty lousy lately but it’s a bright sunny day outside, and here I am indoors tapping away. The beach is only a few blocks away too. However, I have a support worker here today, and will have to wait til she leaves at 5.00pm. Meanwhile, there’s a pavlova cooling in the oven for our son to take to his Venturer meeting tonight, and then I’m onto preparing the fruit for the Christmas cake. I know it’s a bit late by most people’s calculations. However, Mum often rushed it through the night before Christmas so I’m way ahead.
Before I head off, I’ll leave you with a photo of the formal dress I picked up for our daughter for $20.00 at the opportunity shop last week. She doesn’t have a formal this year, but got all dolled up for photos with some friends who had their graduation formal. Here’s a pick:
Hope you’re going well and I look forward to hearing from you!
What with living only 10 minutes walk from the beach, you’d think we’d be down there everyday trying to carpe diem seize the day – especially at the moment during the peak Summer holiday period, where even our dog is sunning herself for hours out in the midday sun. Indeed, this is when all the ring-ins descend on the beach like “plagues of locusts”, as though they own the place. Clearly, if the crowds are any indication, the beach is where we’re supposed to be (although social distancing, of course, this year!)
However, just because we live near the beach, doesn’t mean we don’t have to get on with the realities of life just like everyone else. There’s going to work, school, and our endless battle with trying to sort out, maintain and renovate our house and garden. On top of that, there are the personal crises which affect most families from time to time and despite all the advise to take time out for self-care, it’s very hard (at least for me) to fight my fixation on the problem and a need to get it sorted, which isn’t going to happen if I’m swanning down the beach.
Moreover, this Summer has been uncharacteristically cool, and we’ve also experienced frequent heavy rain. While there are some who still feel the need to get outside even in the rain (and they often have a dog or two in tow), I don’t like get wet at the best of times and being rained on is just plain yuck.
Yet, at the same time, there’s still been enough sunny days to at least encourage me to go for a swim, for Geoff and I to go for a walk, and maybe even the four of us to venture along the beach as a family. That is, if we could actually hit our teenagers over the head with a baseball bat so they don’t mind being seen down at the beach with mum and dad…HOW EMBARRASSING!!
Yet, sometimes, you just need to be forceful. Make it happen.
Finally, Geoff and I actually made if over to Patonga Beach, a 15 minute drive away, and walked along the beach and rocks together where we could soak up each other’s company, and also immerse ourselves in such natural beauty. I really love walking along the rocks, and even though I’m now 51 and have well and truly outgrown my spade and bucket, I still remember going exploring through the rockpools with my dad as a kid, and my incredible delight at finding little crabs and shells. Indeded, even now, exploring the rocks reminds me Keats’ immortal poem: On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies When a new planet swims into his ken; Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men Look’d at each other with a wild surmise— Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
What really struck me about visiting the rock platform at Patonga, was the swirling pattern in the rocks. As Geoff pointed out, the swirls were created as the sandstone was being deposited, seemingly by the ocean currents. We don’t know. We’re not geologists, but we do have inquiring minds. So, if any of you are any wiser and know how these swirls got into the rock, we would love to know.
I have spent years climbing over rocks at the beach. Back when my parents used to have a place at Whale Beach, I used to spend hours down there by the myself, and I’d go down on to the rocks and watch the furious encounters between land and sea. I’d sit on this massive rock, which jutted out into the waves like a mini headland and the waves crashed out the front and swooshed up the side. It was very spectacular, and I almost felt consumed by the ocean, I was that close.
I almost always walk over the rocks in bare feet. Of course, it feels very footloose and fancy-free. Indeed, feeling the sensation of the rough sandstone underfoot, the discomfort of stepping onto those pokey blue periwinkle shells which jab into your feet, is such a sensory experience. It’s just not the same in shoes where your feet can’t see, feel or even breathe it all in. it is as real as real can be especially with the sea breeze slapping your hair into your face. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind at all. I’m fully and completely alive.
It’s interesting too, because each beach is unique. They might look similar, but each and every beach has its own fingerprint embedded in the sand and surf, and it’s own soul bellowing out through the waves and making its presence felt. You can even drive from one beach to the next around here, and the motion of the waves, the action and intensity of the surf, and the nature of the rocks all vary. You could never get bored. Or, at least you shouldn’t. There’s always so much to explore and absorb and it’s all different.
It’s not often Geoff and I go to the beach together. I’ll blame him for that. He goes sailing most Saturdays, and is more of a flat water soul. I enjoy going to the beach, but not when it’s really sunny and I’m likely to fry like an egg and just get burned. I also enjoy sailing, but more on my Dad’s bigger yacht or going out on the kayak. I don’t know how to sail the laser myself.
The other trouble Geoff and I have is trying to find some spare time. Time is constantly going up in smoke, and although our kids are teenagers, they still take up a fair bit of time and emotional energy, and are more likely to need us spontaneously. Indeed, that’s why they have the mobile phones. It’s not so we can keep track of them. It’s so they can keep us on a constant leash…”Taxi!”
“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
However, it’s also important for Mum and Dad to have time together and not just so-called “quality time”, which to me is the biggest cop out ever. From where I sit, it’s very hard to have true quality time if you don’t spend enough quantity time together. Indeed, there’s a lot to be said for just sitting a long side someone for awhile, and simply going fishing or going for a drive. By spending time together, you gain a sense of the whole person, and not just a series of disjointed snapshots. You can tell a few stories, and create a few as well. Indeed, being close to someone is being able to read them like a book. I don’t know about you, but when I read a book, I don’t just speed read from cover to cover. I usually read with a pen in hand and underline my favourite bits. Indeed, I also read in between the lines. After all, good writers don’t spell everything out for us in the text, especially when it comes to poetry. (Humph! No wonder I haven’t read many books lately!) WE have to go looking.
“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.” ― Anais Nin
Meanwhile, Geoff and I were looking at going out for dinner tonight. However, most of the local venues are closed tonight and the weather’s a bit blah. So, we’ve ordered takeaway instead. Now that the house is looking better, it’s much more relaxing to eat at home and we’ll head out for lunch when we’re in Newcastle tomorrow.
How to you juggle relaxation, relationships and the never-ending to-do list? Have you been for any great beach walks or activities lately? I’d love to hear from you!
Well, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve popped by for coffee. Of course, I’m full of excuses and, of course, they’re all very compelling. Top of the list, is the house situation. We’re having my parents over for Christmas lunch, which has somehow necessitated a major renovation of our house in just a few weeks. Fortunately, my husband Geoff has been working from home much of this year, or it wouldn’t have been possible. Not that he’s been renovating on the job. It’s just that he hasn’t been commuting around 2 hours each way to work, and is actually alive at the end of the day.
We’ve actually been trying to launch this reno project for the last six months. The floor boards have been waiting in the garage for us to find someway of magically caterpulting the old piano out the front door. In the end, it turned out to be a classic case of “divide and conquer”. We couldn’t give the piano away as a whole, but it ended up leaving the house in pieces. We’ve kept the keys and pedals, and our friend loaded up the rest on his trailer and disappeared into the sunset. Well, it hasn’t entirely disappeared and a friend did mention something about seeing piano parts outside his place. It does sound a bit suss.
As any of you who have renovated will agree, one thing leads to another. Once we moved out the furniture and got the new floor down, it became pretty clear a wall needed painting and then the room. I wasn’t much chop on the painting front, and so I drifted out into what really should be known as the “dump room”, and steadily started making progress and soon I found myself swept up in a whirlwind. Or, more to the point, hundreds of books found themselves caught up in the whirlwind and swept out the door to the charity shop. I decided I’d disposed of enough books to send an entire bookshelf packing, enabling us to turn the dump room into a retreat and we’ll be moving a couch out there tomorrow.
While it’s very satisfying to be on such a roll, with three days to Christmas, it’s hard to know quite when to call it a day and start shoving everything back in, not pulling more of it out. Yet, I’m planning to drop another load off to the charity shop tomorrow and the car’s not full yet. What else can go? What else can I turf and release that bit more space? It’s a sort of mania once it gets hold of you, but while we need to get the house as clean and spacious as possible, we also need to cook and cooking requires ingredients. Yikes, how does a simple lunch become so complicated? I’m sure if Jesus was in charge, he’d just tell me to make them all Vegemite sandwiches and be done with it. Keep it simple, Stupid.
Anyway, what else has been going on?
Well, we were relaxed. Being part of Great Sydney, we watched Melbourne go into lock down and we were just a little superior about it. After all, we always knew Sydney was better than Melbourne. However, Melbourne’s got it’s revenge. Covid’s back with a vengeance with a cluster generated out of Avalon just down from Palm Beach. This general area known as “the Northern Beaches” is now in lock down and people will be doing Christmas at home, potentially alone. It’s pretty tough, especially when people do so much to prepare for the big day, and I know I’ll really be spewing if my parents can’t come up. Christmas is Christmas. It is more than sacred.
How is Christmas looking in your neck of the woods? Are you catching up with family or friends? Or, are you playing it safe, or possibly in lock down. It’s rough when Christmas gets cancelled. I think even the great Scrooge would complain about that.
Anyway, I’d like to wish you are yours a Merry and blessed Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.
We’ve all seen some weird things in 2020. However, things have really gone mad around here now. Indeed, even madder than usual, if that were possible. As you can see, I’ve starting cooking the books, and we’ll be eating words for Christmas.
Well, we will be unless our renovations and reorganizations get a wriggle on.
Indeed, being typical renovators, we’ve taken two steps forward, three steps back, on the hope that we’ll have a place for everything and everything in it’s place by Christmas Day. This hope is now starting to look like a fantastic dream, and I should be a lot more worried than I am. However, I’ve had good training. You can always hide a few things in the oven, the clothes dryer or under the bed at the last minute if you have to. Failing that, there’s the car.
Of course, the road to renovation didn’t start 5 days before Christmas. Rather, the wheels were set in motion a few months ago when our son’s car bed finally left the house for an extended holiday at a friend’s place.
Yet, there was still the problem of the old piano no one wanted in the loungeroom. However, it turned out that deconstructing the piano solved that problem and a friend of ours was quite happy to take it away in pieces, although we have kept the pedals and the keys. Then, it was full steam ahead, which also included an incidental painting of the room.
While Geoff was busy there, I started getting quite ruthless with the books and realized we probably needed to halve the number of books in our place. Well, that’s if we were ever going to be able to have people over once again. In other words, be able to open the place back up again, and not be afraid of somebody coming over.
Indeed, it’s been all too easy to forget we used to have people over, including holding the kids’ birthday parties. Whatever happened to us?
It’s called dermatomyositis an auto-immune disease where you’re muscles attack themselves and it’s been compounded by Interstitial Lung Disease, which has left me with 50% lung capacity. We’ve been in survival mode for so long, but with Geoff working from home this year due to Covid, we’ve finally been able to get ahead. Indeed, we’ve even saved money. So, 2020 hasn’t been all bad.
Well, it’s actually because of Covid that the renovations had to get a wriggle on. Usually, we go to my aunt’s place every year for a big Christmas with the extended family. My dad is one of seven, so what with all my cousins and now their kids, it’s become quite a tribe. However, they’re not getting together this year, and so my parents are coming to our place, and there’ll only be the six of us. Indeed, with such a small group, I feel we need to include the three dogs in on the head count. Nine sounds a lot better!
This means, of course, that I’m needing to cook, and not just cook the books. However, that can wait at the moment. We have a ham in the fridge, and I’ve made a Christmas cake and there’s also a pudding. So, I’ve made a good start.
All these books ended up in the kitchen while we were moving furniture around. Our dump and run room is now in the process of being cleaned out, and we’ve swapped the lounge and the dining table over so we’ll have two tables for Christmas Day, while creating a potential place for our teenaged kids to hang out. Or, perhaps it will be for us parents when, and if, their friends ever come over. I’m really looking forward to this new chapter, and it feels quite liberating.
Yet, at the same time, we still need to find a place for everything and have everything stashed away in its place by Christmas Day.
What have we done????
How are your Christmas preparations going? I hope yours are a lot less chaotic, and your plans are going well. Yet, at the same time, there’s also Covid to consider and its intent on ruining quite a few Christmases this year. Nearby Sydney has a cluster on the Northern Beaches and they’ve gone into lock down, and I’ve hearing of a few cancelled plans. However, cancelled lunches is nothing compared to the incredible loss of life the virus has claimed on a global scale, and there will be a lot of empty chairs this Christmas Day, and a lot of heart-ache. We are thinking of you and sending our love!