Saturday, December 24, 2011

'tis the season

Oh, it's been so busy! Hasn't it? Don't you think?

I remember a day somewhere where I lay down and had a nap. It was amazing.

Since then and before, we've been flat out.

What with? What with-n't I say!

(oh, I know that's not a word. I know)

Three story compilations edited and published into little books. One book was of stories by my lovely Tuesday writers workshop, another was of my son's stories, and another was of my girl's (along with sweet illustrations). I thought it would just take a minute to put these together. How funny!

A trip to Sydney where we got to stay in a hotel RIGHT downtown, something I'd never done before. A whole weekend of browsing, present buying, bus riding, movie making, food eating, caroling, hanging out with my mum, and running around in the hotel like silly monkeys. It was so much fun.

Creating dozens of little crocheted bookmarks to give as gifts. Another thing I thought would take just a minute!

Bike riding, on my mum's borrowed exercise bike. I'm supposed to ride it every day. When I don't feel like it, I think, well, I have to. It's part of my get-well-package, like insulin or heart pills might be. Or at least a bit like that.

Getting presents ready, especially for loved ones over in the US. Yes, you heard me right, dear people in Arizona. Your gifts are Officially in the mail!

Getting ready to host Christmas with my sister and my niece. Now the under-the-couch area has been vacuumed, along with the corners of all the rooms, where cobwebs had grown like little spring flowers. The study/guest room that used to be a study/guest room, but had become the place we folded laundry and shoved stuff when people were coming over, is now a study/guest room again. Thank you, beautiful husband. It looks so lovely I might use it as a study again. Imagine that. Plus, food has been bought. And not last minute either: like, two whole days ago. Now we are sitting and waiting for them to arrive. We are twiddling our thumbs and peering out the windows.

There's been jolly and not -so-jolly walking hand in hand. It's the anniversary of two family members passing away. There have been other difficult moments. I've seen my counsellor twice and she has been extraordinary in helping me sift, find the joy, hold it up to the light.

And there's been silly. Just plain laugh 'til you cry silly. I love that part.

We've got jingly reindeer antlers ready to wear; we've got green and red napkins that match the candles; I am planning to bake and host and play games that make our sides hurt with laughter.

I am peering out the window. The stockings have been hung with care, at the least the ones for the pets, on the exercise bike.

Let the joy rise!

And to you all, I hope this season brings love in bucketloads, and peace and the kind of smiling that hurts your cheeks.

Monday, December 12, 2011

a particular day

I almost missed this.

Samoa, December 12, 2010

With ten minutes to go of the day, I suddenly realised today is the anniversary of my dad passing away. He has been gone now for 11 years.

One year ago, we stood by a rock pool in Samoa, a deeply spiritual place, and spoke of him.

The water was so still while we were speaking. Just before my sister opened the box with his ashes inside, just as she was talking, a wave washed into the pool and lapped at my sister's ankles. 

We spread his ashes over the water. As I said goodbye to my father with my sister by my side, I finally cried. Properly, deeply, hard.

And afterwards? We threw frangipani flowers over the water. They smelled so beautiful in our hands.

Love, and peace, to you all.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

feathered angels and soulful light

Hey, it turns out tawny frogmouths aren't owls at all! I've been misleading you this whole time. Shame on me! 

They are so much like owls that many people think they are. But The Owl Pages website explains why they are not. 

Still, they were so very beautiful. They haven't been back. Must be off somewhere, making someone else's day. Like fuzzy-feathered, winged, beaked, big-eyed angels. :) 

We went looking for the lunar eclipse last night. Me in my jammies and ugg boots, my husband in his boxer shorts, standing out on our just-mown lawn under a soulful sky. 

The moon was hiding behind clouds, perhaps, or swooning away behind some trees, so we never saw it shine and change. But it was still magical. Standing in that ethereal light. With my husband, in the garden. The frogs chirruping and insects whispering amongst themselves. 

Something rustled loudly in the trees. I think our new chooks roost up there. Perhaps they were startled to see humans roaming about their bedroom… I know I'd be alarmed to see them in mine. 

We drifted upstairs and slept with the curtains open. Fans whirred in the kids' bedrooms. And the moon quietly transformed itself while we slept, and silver light coated our dreams.

Friday, December 9, 2011

and good things look like this

Because here, all around, is beauty happening. Right under my nose. It's everywhere. I just have to walk a step and I'm tripping over Sheer Wonderful.

A whole week of wonderful, in fact.

Which I am so glad about. So very thankful for.

brought a whole day of Lego League National Tournament-ing. We went up to Sydney and cheered on my son's former lego league team. We cheered ourselves hoarse (at least I did). National champions last year, this year, the team came second.

Second! Woot! Well done! Now they've been invited, again, to represent Australia in an international tournament. And because we were part of the team for the first 2/3 of the season, the coaches and families have (incredibly kindly) said my son can come too, if he wants. How about that? Looks like we might, maybe, possibly, be going to Germany or the US next year. A-ma-zing.

Here's a taste of what the day was like. It was beautiful. Spirit rising beautiful. Kids supporting each other beautiful. We had a wonderful day.

brought a full day of Conservatorium Open Day performances at our Town Hall. My husband was there for 12 hours straight…and somehow in all his busy-ness and tiredness, he was still so funny and beautiful. How does he do that?

My son played in three concerts. In this photo, he is about to solo on piano. A grand piano. In the Town Hall. Out there, improvising on the high wire. So inspiring.

brought the circus. And a boy on a trapeze…

and a girl writing stories on the laptop as I talked with friends.

Later, we took a long walk. There was talking and going all the way to the shops to have sorbet (for a girl) and hot chocolate (for a boy), and then a browse in the library. So peaceful.

Plus there was more talking, talking, talking. We were processing sadness, but in a way that made us laugh and reclaim ourselves. Then there was more laughter thrown in for good measure. So lovely!

brought my mum. The three of us took her out to an impromptu lunch for her birthday.

I love hanging out with my mum. The kids adore her. We are so lucky.

Tuesday saw me thinking a lot about where I wasn't, while at the same time looking around at where I was. I looked at what I had. Who I was with. When I looked, I saw so much smiling.

And Tuesday
brought a family of four tawny frogmouth owls. Right to the jacaranda tree outside our window. They sat there, dozing and dreaming, for the entire day.

At dusk, I took this little movie. At some point in the film, the mama owl feeds her baby. Listen to my daughter being utterly blown away :)

brought a park date with two beautiful families—one family being dear new friends and the other family being dear old friends. It saw children running all around, playing for 3 hours straight.

And afterwards, my daughter said, "I know we haven't known them [our new friends] for very long, but already I feel like I've known them forever!" She was so happy.

But Wednesday night came,

and just like that,

the sorrow rose.

Sorrow I'd been keeping at bay for days—ever since some triggers earlier in the week. Just like that, it rose and sat flat on me.

How strange, to be surrounded by beauty and joy, and still be squished by sadness. To spend days with kind, loving people, and still feel sadness there like a prickle on the skin. Like a steady, close buzz. Tinting whole sweet days, just a little,

How strange, and how perfectly normal, too? Normal, to be joyful, then suddenly, to mourn. To find and reclaim joy, only to forget again and be sad.

I think this is part of grieving.

Not just these new hurts, but old ones too. There they go, all the hard bits of the past, tumbling together with the present, tangled and tumbled, tumbled and tangling.

And I think this is part of letting go.  

Of what I thought life should look like, what I thought I needed, and thought life should have.

And I think this is part of accepting.

What IS.

So, here's to sorrow and joy, coming intertwined. The dark and the light, like two walkers. Moving together. Holding hands.

As for today?

brought clarity.

Today brought friends and family, and loving words, and professional help.

It is so clear,
how much love there is.

I am loved. We are loved.
We are.

We are blessed, blessed, blessed.

Today I was driving. Just me, the car, the road.

Beautiful music was playing on the radio.

And in that moment, I felt as though I was

surrounded by butterflies.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

grief feels like this

an okay day and a good day and a great day

then a bad.

bad that follows you.

bad like a sinkhole.

an unrelenting urge to lay your head down on the table, wherever you are, whoever you are with.

a night of vivid dreams, and when you wake,
all day you hold one dream close
because in it
everything was back the way it once was.

it feels like
you've fallen overboard. You are swimming, swimming to get back,
but the boat moves steadily away. You can see the lights; you can hear the laughter and the music on the decks. You tread water. The boat moves away.

it feels like missing. You miss your friend. You miss your friends. You miss the laughter, the cups of tea, the times on the couch with small children showing you stories. You miss confiding and letting go. You miss everyone. You miss talking, being, sharing together.

you miss them. You miss them. You miss them.

and all you want is to walk into a forest 
and cover yourself with leaves.


What do you do?

I suppose you keep treading water. You keep your head up, as tired as you are. 

You look north south east west. 

You see, 
there, and there, and there, 
other boats. How did you not see them before? They are all around. 

you swim. 

Perhaps, you hold up a hand. 

As tired as you are, 
perhaps you wave until someone sees you. 

You swim. 

People stand at the deck's edge. They throw out a line, 
and you pull and they pull. Hand over hand over hand. 

A ladder comes down. It takes everything you have, everything that's in you, to grab that ladder. You pull up. Hand over hand over hand. 

It takes a long time. 

To swim. To wave. To pull. To rise. 

When you enter the new boat, this always-there-but-for-the-seeing boat,
you are exhausted. 

But all around you are faces,

People bring you blankets, warm drinks. They watch over you. 

They keep you close, these beautiful people. 

They keep you above the water.


Friday, December 2, 2011

how much

I think I've mentioned before, like here and here and here, how much I love my husband, and what a good man he is.

He's a beautiful person. From the inside to the outside, from the tips to the ends. All the way through.

But he's not just beautiful to me, or to my family. He's beautiful, and dedicated, and inspiring, to many, many other people in his life too.

He is a music educator. He lives and breathes music. He shares this love with anyone and everyone. He is music, I think. Take an x-ray, and you'd probably see notes—notes everywhere! Crowding, calling, laughing, singing out.

Two weeks ago, I got to celebrate and share what this beautiful man has achieved.

Two weeks ago, I was at a 10-year reunion concert, marking 10 years of a jazz program that my husband built from the ground up. A program that, before my husband arrived, had one combo with 5 kids in it. There are now hundreds of kids enrolled. There are combos, ensembles, a school bands program, and a killer jazz orchestra that's about to tour the US West coast. Every month, world-class jazz musicians come to perform. My husband has been involved in music festivals, international tours, and jazz camps. He is incredible, devoted and so hard working. He is completely passionate about what he does.

That night, two weeks ago, I was sitting contentedly in the dark of the concert. Tucked high up on the second floor, in an almost sold-out theatre, sitting with my girl (and without my boy, who was away at scout camp).

I suddenly thought, This is amazing. What my husband has done. What he has helped to create. Because now he has an amazing jazz faculty; he has an amazing assistant and co-conspirator; there are now others helping teach in the school bands program, and the program is growing, growing. Now he is building something with others. Now he's part of a beautiful team.

Emotion rose inside me. I felt so moved. I suddenly thought, Someone should say something. Someone should mark this moment. Someone should thank this man.

And I thought, Perhaps they've organised to give him flowers? Maybe someone will pop onto the stage at the end and say something. Yeah, I'm sure someone will. Someone else. I snuggled back in my chair, there in the shadows.

Then I thought, People are busy. Life is busy. This concert is squeezed in between busy and busy. Hmmm. I don't know that anyone's going to pop onto the stage.

I suddenly realised.

It's me.

I'm going to go on stage. Here. In front of over a hundred people. I am going to thank this beautiful man.

Holy mackerel. Instant nausea.

And so, as the music played, I tried to think of what I'd say. Some words came in. Nausea rose. My skin prickled. I felt cold. I thought of more words. My mouth went dry. Over a hundred people were in this room.

Then my husband said, "This will be our last piece for the night," and the orchestra began to play.

I leaned over and whispered in my girls' ear, "I'm going to go on stage to say thank you to Daddy."
Her eyes went huge.
Big grin. "I'm coming!" she said, and we both stood.

We went down the stairs, into the lower level. We saw my husband's colleague who was videotaping the concert. I leaned in and whispered, "Do you think there'll be an encore?"
He said, "I think this'll be it."
"I want to go up and say something," I said. "When do you think would be a good time?"
His eyes went huge.
The music ended.
Big, slow smile.
"Now, I'd say."


And here, for the hearing impaired (because even I can't tell half of what I said in this video!) is the text of my speech. Somehow, I found the right words to say.

I haven't the same volume in my voice as my husband, and I don't know how he does this, night after night, but I wanted to say a few words because the spirit has moved me. Ten years ago, or just over ten years ago, I was a very homesick young mother living in California with a music teacher for a husband, and I asked him, would he please, please come to Australia with me. And he said, Of course. And it was uncomplicated for you because you loved us so much.
And so then he came here, to this country, to this beautiful place, and you didn't know anybody. You just knew my family, and that was it. And on day 2 of arriving, he picked up the yellow pages and started looking for work.
And I've never seen anyone more dedicated or more devoted to his job than you. And the passion you have for music and music education and the people that you teach and are part of—whose lives you're a part of—is extraordinary, and it shines in every single thing you do. And you've helped build something beautiful here. And I've never seen anything like it, and I think you're amazing, and I'm very very glad you came here. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

roll up, roll up, summer has begun…

It's day one.

Here we are!

Summer. Officially! (According to the Western Calendar, that is).

Which means every single day will be glorious. Right?

Are you listening, Sky? Sun? Clouds? Ocean? Wind?

It's day one.

It's my mother's birthday today. I love you so much, Mom. I hope your day is so beautiful you can hardly stand it.

It's day one.

I saw my counsellor/therapist person yesterday. She's my long-time regular counsellor, the one who was living overseas when I needed to see her last year. The one I actually hadn't seen in 3 years. Woah. That's a long time between talks.

She was so lovely. She said, Be wary of labels. (That is, blindly accepting them. Letting them define you). She said, Go information gathering. Look at your treatment options. There isn't one way to do this. And, after she and I talked about all the Stuff…and I said, "This is no way to live. When my life is this beautiful and I'm still this sad, something has to shift"…she showed me her pad of paper, where she had written what I'd said in huge capitals: THIS IS NO WAY TO LIVE.

So. We are agreed. We have a plan.

Something is shifting.

Are you listening, Self? Fear? Brain? Doubt? Universe?

It's day one.

The kids and I have also come up with a Plan. The kids and I have realised that "Mum is like a puppy. She needs regular food and walks." If I don't get walked, I fret and chew the furniture! It's pitiful, really.

So every day after breakfast, we plan to do some exercise. So far, we've walked to the beach and along to the next suburb, then taken a train home (so fun). We've walked around our streets exploring. And today, the plan is to Swim.

Yesterday was supposed to have a swim in it, but instead there were two visits to the vet. One for a very sick chook (who didn't make it) and one for an arthritic dog (who did make it and should make it for years more, but can no longer jump into or out of cars. I need to lift him. He is heavy). Some days don't go to plan. Doesn't mean you give up. Right?

R.I.P Chook. We'll miss you. 

It's day one.

I haven't written about homeschooling in ages. Our year is winding down, but the kids haven't lost steam. My girl is flying, and I mean flying, through maths right now. She's got her times tables down. She's learning long division. She's adding and subtracting like a fiend. She knows how to figure out change. She knows her shapes and angles and weights and time and probability. She finished Year 3 maths a week and a half ago, and is now rocketing through Year 4. Who would have thunk it? Seriously. Where's the sparkling apple juice? We need to CELEBRATE!

This last week she's also written a cat magazine, plus created a brochure for a kitten surf school.

And along with the hundred other stories she's working on, she is writing a series of tales about her beloved cat Mittens. Mittens is adorable, annoying and very simple minded. We call her Shmoo. Here's one of the "tails" my girl has written:

TAIL 2. 
Dis is a gigantic drinking bowl,” thought Mittens, peering into the toilet. “It’s vewy smewy.” She leaned over to look and...fell in!MARRROWWGGLLE!!!” she gurgled, thrashing around. “It GURGLEMMOWW!!! Doesn’t MMOWW!!! Taste MMERRR!!! Dat GUURRGLLE!!! Nice!” She scrabbled out of the toilet and ran off to the other end of the house, dripping wet.
I don’t tink dat was a dwinking bowl after all,” she said, licking herself. “But if it was, It would need fwesh water.” She walked to the mother of the house and mowed: “If dat’s a dwinking bowl, pwease change da water. It wasn’t vewy pweasnt to dwink.”
The mother of the house wondered why the kitten was so wet.

So funny!

My boy is all about his schedule right now. He practices, he does his maths, and now he has asked to "do history." So I found some cool e-workbooks on Rome that he's really enjoying. He loves knowing what's ahead, this one.

Plus he's doing chemistry experiments, and researching periods in art. He's watercolouring, sketching, painting, writing, reading reading reading. He's doing music, circus, scouts, and art class, and all the time he's watching over his family like a shepherd.

The kids are like a carnival.

You come into their lives and watch them Being. Doing. Learning. Loving. You see all the rides, and the sparkling lights. You see how nothing is dimmed, or if there are dark spaces, they don't stay dark for long. There is talking, laughing; there are games and prizes. Oh, the prizes! You can't believe just how wonderful they are. You carry them in your arms; you are full of spun candy and soft toys and laughter 'til your sides shake. You can't believe how lucky you are to be here. To see this. To be a part of it.

Getting to be their mum, and parenting with my beautiful husband, are without a doubt the best things that have ever happened to me.

It is day one.