Friday, November 2, 2012

month of goodness

I would like to preface this post by saying, My heart goes out to those who have been through Hurricane Sandy, from Cuba to Canada. I am thinking of them, thinking of those who have lost so much. I hope their healing can happen without further sorrow, and that recovery comes smoothly. Sending warm, good wishes out, over the sea. 

I love November.

It's filled with so much goodness you have to take it a single bite at a time.

You have to close your eyes,

slow down time,

savour each minute as it comes.

Yesterday was the first day of the month.

It was really really hot, and filled with tennis and drama group and art class and juggling.

This is where we do drama group …

Isn't it beautiful?

But it was mind-bendingly hot out there, so we ended up in the hall up the hill. I'd reserved it Just In Case of wet weather, only to realise it's perfect for much-too-much-heat, too.

Imagine a hall filled with children laughing.



Later, in juggling class (which we do as a family, all four of us), I juggled the balls NINE times without dropping them!

AND I figured out the diabolo, and could put my foot on the string and flip the diabolo over while it stayed spinning. Woot!

AND I learned to juggle cigar boxes. I could actually do it. The teacher said, "I think you've found your thing, Helena! I'm going to have to learn more tricks to teach you." Who'd've thunk it?

Ah, juggling class. I think I have found a new Love. I can't wait for next Thursday. Seriously. I can't believe I have to wait a whole week to go again.

November is the month of Happy Busy like this, but that's like a lot of our months—we are so lucky to live this life sometimes I have to (gently) pinch myself.

So what makes this month so Extra Specially Good, then?

Well, I'm glad you asked!

November is the month of birthdays!

My girl turns 10 on Sunday!

I turn (insert age) on Tuesday!

And my niece turns 21 at the end of the month.

We are going to have parties and dinners and go on getaways. There'll be a lot of singing, and feasting, and candle blowing. And there'll be a LOT of hugging, which is always my favourite part.

I can feel the goodness rising, just thinking about it :)

November is the month of writing!

And writing. And writing. And more writing! Because we (my son, daughter, mother, nieces, friends and I) are all doing NaNoWriMo. It stands for National Novel Writing Month. It really should be called IntNoWriMo, because people all over the world register.

We've each committed to writing a novel this month. My mum, nieces and I have all said we'll write 50,000 words before the 30th. That's FIFTY THOUSAND WORDS. Crazy! My kids and their friend have each said they'll write 30,000. That's THIRTY THOUSAND WORDS.

Isn't it wild?

Isn't it good?

Yes. Yes it is.


November is world vegan month!

People will be talking about kindness and compassion all this month (and longer, too, I hope). People will be sharing recipes. People will be speaking and writing and learning—about how animals are treated on this planet, in places like factory farms and circuses, rodeos and slaughterhouses.

People will be talking about love and people will be trying to find new ways of co-existing on the planet with other thinking, feeling creatures—creatures who love their young as we do, are sociable as we are, who deserve a life free of fear and suffering as we do, and who trust us.

My family and I feel so good to be on this vegany path. It feels amazing to know that nothing we eat or support has brought fear or pain to another living being. I love that this month of awareness exists, and that the awareness is growing, every minute.

The goodness, rises, and rises.

I can feel it, as I sit, and breathe, and be.

I love that November is here, and I get to live it.

I love that I am here, in this moment,

and I get to live.

Friday, October 26, 2012




So, we're back. We've been back from our trip for three weeks now, and it's taken a while to adjust.

We tore straight into term 4 like it was a train we had to catch on the run, like we were hobos and we were racing after that thing with our bootlaces flapping and our hair in our eyes. We leaped on, and have been rattling on the rails ever since, looking at each other like, "Dude, why are we on this train called Reality and not still on holidays in Western Australia and looking at the sun setting over the sea?"

We're, all of us, shaking our heads a little in surprise. Or maybe that's just me. I don't think the kids mind. They got into a reading and writing rhythm while on holidays that just hasn't quit. All they want to do is write and read and read and write and so that's kind of all they're doing. Meanwhile, I keep looking around and trying to come to terms with the fact we aren't on holidays any more and the sun isn't setting over the sea.

So, how was it?

It was awesome. Awesome, then more awesome, like an cake made of awesome, with icing made of awesome dolloped on top, and more awesome on the side!

It was one of the happiest times of my life, actually.

But I took a lot of photos. Like, 1,400 photos. And when I got back I thought, "I need to blog about our trip!" But then I looked at ALL the photos and thought, "Ohhhh. Maybe tomorrow."

Which turned into "I will blog about it, but not today and tomorrow we're busy. So I'll do it the next day, or whenever I can sort out one thousand and fourteen hundred photographs."

Which turned into, "It's too hard. Maybe I'll start in November."

Which turned into, "How will I ever blog again??"

And that, of course, morphed into that classic existential question of:

"WILL I ever blog again?"

Well the answer is, Yes.


I have decided to try and write a little bit about our trip, then write about life, then write a little bit more about our trip, then more about life, and so do it in manageable pieces, like a home-made quilt. It might be funny shaped and have frayed edges, but it's my quilt and I already love it to bits, as unformed as it is.

Our Trip to Western Australia

Story #1.

I got on that plane.

It wasn't easy; actually it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Over the years I seem to have built my fear up until it has been extraordinary—this sturdy castle where I've holed myself up like a girl in the tower, or the grimy bearded dude in chains in the dungeon, or like the Beast. Whatever the analogy, there I had placed myself, more and more stuck, from the time I was 16 'til now.

It took a LOT of work, months, just to book the plane. I'd been working on this solidly with my counsellor and my naturopath and my doctor for the past 9 months, and booking the plane was a huge step. A big healthy leap forward in managing my depression and anxiety.

But then it turned out I had to actually get on the thing.

On the day of the flight, all was mostly well…just a little tangle and jangle of nerves, until I was actually on that gangplank, walking towards the door of the plane.

Oh. My.

Fear rose up and nearly swallowed me whole.

I walked and slowed. Slowed, slowed, until my kids were up ahead with their Nana, and people were streaming past like trucks on the freeway.

I kept looking at my husband. "Are we really doing this?"

"Yes," he said, firmly, gently.

Slower and slower we went down the gangplank. Almost to a crawl.

"Really? Are we really?"

"Yes," he said.

At some point, he slid his hand between my backpack and my back. And we kept moving forward.

All I really remember is the urge to stop. The urge to sit. The urge to turn and run away from the plane.

And I remember my husband's warm hand between my shoulder blades.

At some point, my kids were at the door of the plane. Their Nana could get on, but they needed boarding passes. I had those, in my hand. My kids' heads turned, and they searched for me. I waved.

"They're with me!" I said, brightly.

And time sped up.

There we were at the door.

There we were handing passes to the flight attendant.

There. We were. On the plane.

In all the visualisations I'd done with my counsellor, nothing quite captured the metal-in-the-mouth, cold-skinned terror I felt then.

This was my worst nightmare. I was on a plane.

And my husband stood nearby.

He told me later that he'd kept a pressure on, with that warm hand of his, kept his hand firm on my back, knowing how much I wanted to turn and run.

He kept me moving forward. He steered me onto that plane, with love, so that I could face my fears, live through a moment I had built into a monster, and go have an extraordinary holiday with my family.

We flew, and I only cried three times.

And I told myself I was safe. And I smiled at my kids. And I noticed when my thoughts tried to sabotage me. And I gave myself a good stern talking to once, in the bathroom. And there was turbulence and a bumpy landing, but we were fine.

And when I got off, for the first time in years, I didn't swear I would never do that again.

I thought, We have landed.

And I took a photograph.

And I felt grateful and I felt excited and I thought, I am glad that's over, and then… I let it go.

And went and had one of the best holidays of my life.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

the most important thing I have to tell you

I've come to realise that the thing I most value in life is kindness.

Kindness is respect and love, intertwined.

Kindness is choosing

to think outside ourselves,

being aware of the consequences of our actions,

thinking how others might feel about the things we say and do.

Kindness is choosing not to bring suffering onto others.

Kindness is compassion.

But kindness isn't soft, no sir. Kindness isn't pink and Hallmarky. There are no kittens and bows on my kindness card!

My kindness has muscles and steel and strength. My kindness asks me to rise above a moment when I'm tempted to be snarky to someone, or say things about someone behind their back.

My kindness asks me to say sorry, to own the moments where I've been wrong.

It involves choosing paths that are sometimes difficult or different from the norm.

My kindness has me saying no to choices that cause another living thing to suffer pain or fear.

Sometimes I think if all anyone ever chose in life was to be kind, the simplest path would open up in front of them.

You would see it, ribboning out. It would glow. And whenever you were faced with a choice, you could say, Which is the kindest? And so your life would be laid out in easy pieces, the yellowest, finest, brick-est road.

It seems so simple, some days.

But a couple of months ago I had to make a hard decision. This one was tricky.

In order to be kind to myself, I had to possibly disappoint and hurt someone else. For years, I'd let myself be part of a situation that caused me suffering because I wanted to be nice. I thought that was the kindest choice. I thought kindness meant I had to sacrifice my own happiness and wellbeing.

But that's not what I mean by being kind.

Kindness is recognising that sometimes the person you have to nurture is yourself. And if you're honest about that, if you take ownership of your own needs and wellbeing, and you are clear and you are gentle, then that isn't cruel. It's being true.

And truth is the white-hot core of kindness. Not the "truth" people use when being judgemental or pushing their agenda, knowing it'll hurt someone else. But truth that comes without malice or words that bite. Truth that's filled with compassion for others. Truth that respects, loves, and honours other living things with a fiery, steady light you can see for miles.

Kindness is all these things of beauty
held together in two hands,


Kindness is a living thing;

you can feel its pulse beating against your fingers,
along and into your skin.

Do you feel it? It beats as you beat.

It has your heart.

Friday, September 14, 2012

the time has come…

to really introduce my husband. He is the coolest, listening-est, kindest, most creative, dedicated and compassionate grown up I know…

and the funniest person I've ever met.

This video is of him, at juggling class.

He's been taking the class with my boy and my girl for a term (I'm planning to join them next term—it's too much fun to miss!),

and this was his final performance for the group.

Here he is,

The Breakneck Juggler.

I'm really glad he didn't actually break anything.

And I'm really, really glad I married him.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

kind of awesome

My boy started juggling in April.

He practises it for hours because he can 
(no bus to catch in the morning, 
no hours and hours of designated work in the day, 
no homework at night),

because this skill is honoured and treated as equal to
any other learning he might do,

and because it brings him joy.

So he has become 
kind of awesome at it.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

it is a beautiful day today

Spring is here. You can tell because the peach tree has erupted, quite suddenly, with bright pink blossoms.

Yesterday I sat in the sun on a bench with a lizard in my hands. He sat so quietly on my finger, his little heart beating. He didn't try to run; he simply soaked in the sunlight. We named him Maximus before we released him on to the grass. At some point I looked up into the peach tree and could see bees by the dozens, buzzing from flower to flower to flower, gathering. 

Yesterday, I went to my naturopath, and together we finally flushed out the seed of doubt laid by a doctor about 6 weeks ago. This doctor (not my usual), really pushed for me to get some Xanax for my upcoming flight. When I told him I had a natural supplement that worked well with anxiety, he said with a little smile, "Well, it's always nice to have a placebo." And when I said again, I would rather not take Xanax if possible, he said, "Well, once you're on that plane, it's hard to get off!"

I left his office, and let his words seep in as the days passed. I let his words grow inside me like a weed. I let them take root and I gave them power. And I felt fear, real debilitating fear, for the first time in months. That was my August, filled with beauty, busy-ness, laughter, and creeping, creeping fear.

Meanwhile, other things happened recently to try and trip me. Two other potential triggers to depression sprouted up like companion weeds. As though they saw one weed allowed to grow, and they thought, "Oooh! Open weed season! Cowabunga! Here we come!"

I watched these things build around me. Over there, one trigger. Over here, another, and right here beside me, my fear of flight. I could see how easily they could pull me under. The conditions were all there, ripe for a perfect storm.

But as my hardest day hit on Saturday, and as I saw the storm roil and ready itself, and as I named it and called it "Perfect" and spoke of it to a friend, I realised that wasn't what it was, at all. 

A truly perfect storm is nature's anomaly. It exists in science, or—as some see it—in the hands of God. It is completely out of our control.

But this—my situation—isn't. Words and triggers and history and loss are often out of my control, but my reaction to them is not. I don't have to let the storm rise, because I don't have to give it power. I literally just have to keep moving through the water. Just keep moving. Forward and forward and forward again.

I just have to breathe and watch bees gather pollen from the peach tree. I just have to plan for a trip and let sorrow pass through me, and listen and be a friend, and love always and be kind, and walk. 

I just have to watch my boy juggle and listen as my girl has drum lessons with her dad.

I just have to hug my mother when she walks in the door.

I just have to kiss my husband and put my hand on his back.

I just have to run my workshops and watch how the kids' voices tumble over each other, so excited to share.

I just have to have a cat on my lap.

I just have to see my counsellor and have him remind me how well I am doing.

I just have to skip rocks on the water.

I just have to see my naturopath and talk through treatment and feel calm and whole and hopeful again.

I just have to keep moving. Make my way forward, with my eyes wide open, noticing and finding the joy, always.

And the waves can't help but ease. The storm can't help but settle.

It's spring here.

The blossoms and bees are out. It's a beautiful, beautiful day today. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

a hopeful heart and a song

This morning I walked by the beach

and although I am better for the most part today I wasn't, quite. Today, I walked by the beach and I started with fear held close to my chest and some tears might have come and I walked and thought, When will the walking work? When will the sea come and pluck the worry from my ribs? When will I make like the sun and rise determinedly from out of the water? When will my skin notice the light and drink it in?

I walked and walked and kicked the sand hard down with my feet and I thought,

It's not working and it'll never work and I could feel my chest aching and at some point I looked up and looked around, as my body kept moving forward and forward.

At some point I saw the beach pool and the blue water inside it and outside it

and at some point I noticed the tide was really low and I saw how the rocks were exposed and mossy-green.

And at some point, I don't know when,

maybe when I stopped watching my fear like it was a trapped bird,

I began to see rocks in the sand. And they were smooth and flat and round and perfect

for skipping.

At some point, I reached the part of the beach where I needed to turn around and head home

to my children and my husband and the day

and I had all these rocks in my hands.

Perfect for skipping.

I stood by the water's edge and I waited 'til that moment between waves when the sea

was calmest.

And I spun those rocks in.

And the rocks danced on the water.

One caught air so big, I couldn't help myself.

I whooped out loud with joy.

Tonight, I thought of this song.

It's not about rocks or skipping or the sea or even about how walking lifts me always. It simply makes me happy…which is a small, good thing, don't you think? 

Monday, August 27, 2012

fear held and let go, held and let go


When I am quiet on here, I'm usually busily working stuff out. Thinking and thinking and thinking.

Well, I should say, When I'm quiet in general, I'm working stuff out! In real life, I sometimes start twiddling my hair, gazing off into space, and thinking deep thoughts. My husband always notices, always asks what I'm thinking. Sometimes I can tell him, sometimes, I haven't figured out what exactly I'm thinking, just that I am! My thoughts come in all these colours, kind of like drifting into a cloud made of paint bubbles, as well as snatches of music, books I've read, photos I've taken, moments I've lived, and fears and joys I've felt and carried about with me like trinkets.

It's busy in this mind of mine. Busy good, busy sad, busy afraid, busy planning, busy dreaming, busy hoping, busy taking it all in, this extraordinary life.

We're flying to Perth for a big family holiday in three weeks today. If you've read my blog for a while, you might know I have a fear of flying. But I don't know if I've been that clear about this fear, certainly not recently: my fear has been profound and debilitating, and in January, when I tried to plan a trip to the US, it was the main thing that brought me down.

If you don't have a fear like this, it must be hard to believe. This crazy fear—it's been like the monster in my closet, and whenever I look at it and give it energy, it comes roaring into my bed, sits on my blankets, curls up inside my chest and sings terrible songs that keep me awake for days.

So I've been working with a counsellor for 8 months to deal with it, and with all the related monsters and monster babies that come along with something like this. Because the fear feeds other fears, unsurprisingly, and brings up all sorts of memories. The fear lives inside my history and who I am. I've been trying to figure it all out. Try and accept the fear and move on, have a life that isn't pinned down by it.

I'm doing really, really well. This flight is our test run, and from there, I'm hoping I can get on a plane to visit my husband's family in the US. We have friends and family over the sea, such dear, dear people, and I want to see them.

One of the things I've said over and over is how important I think it is to be up front about my issues with depression and anxiety, so that it isn't a hidden illness, something to be ashamed of, so that anyone with a history with this illness might feel less alone.

But I write that I am afraid of flying and I feel a bit silly. Like, I've been working with a counsellor for this long about something this safe? Really?

I'm not afraid of heights, but some people are. It's hard for me to imagine how that might feel. I'm not afraid of small enclosed spaces, or sharks, or dogs, but some people are. I don't feel their fear, but I get it. Some fears seem to come and swallow you whole. You can't explain it. You just try your best to live.

Sometimes it doesn't work so well. But sometimes, with hard work and words spoken and thoughts thought and with lots of writing and looking for beauty and checking in and having the best mental safety net in place, it does start to work. It starts to get better. The fear loses its strangle hold.

The last three weeks have been crazy busy with amazing, wonderful, happy things.

At the same time, since the beginning of August, I've been getting this wild panicky feeling in my chest. It hit me around about then, in this, Oh Wow, way. Oh. I'm getting on a plane. Wow. I am getting on a plane. And if I give any space or air to the feeling, up comes the wild fire of fear. What if? What if? What if?

I feel like a motorcycle daredevil then. I'm heading towards the burning hoop. I am going so fast. I have done this before, I am in my flame-retardant suit, there are people standing by with fire extinguishers, the crowd is moving me forward with goodwill and prayers, my family is standing by, my children are hopping up and down with excitement. It should be okay, but you never know for sure. All you can do, is let go. Surrender to the movement of the bike, of your path forward and through.

And when I surrender—because I really want to jump; I want to leap through that hoop—I suddenly see.

There is no burning. There are no flames. The fear makes pictures only I can see.

There is so much beauty. Beauty on this side of the hoop and on the other. I am pointed at the hoop, moving forward, surrendering, accepting. Letting go.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

small good things: writer girl

My daughter finished her stint as a Youngzine Young Editor a few days ago. She sent in her last essay, attaching it with a smiley face, as she always does. I am so proud of her. And she is so proud of herself!

The last essay, her sixth, was a hard one—she had already written 5 articles in 6 weeks and was pooped. Full-up with words, and all out of words, at the same time. She's only 9 after all—5 essays is a lot of work for a kid!

But we talked about it, and talked some more. Was it worth sticking it out to finish what she'd set out to do? This was the last week and it was only one more essay. We talked about commitments and obligations. Could she do it? If she wanted, she had the choice to write to them and pull out a week early. She did want to, but she didn't at the same time. There were long talks, hours spent researching the final essay and some writing…then more long talks, more researching, and tears. It was so tough, but she was so close.

So she stuck it out.

On Sunday morning (this being the third weekend in a row spent writing articles!) she finished her draft. She was 150 words short. I sat with her and gave her feedback. I asked questions and showed her areas that could use more detail. We looked at sources together. We sat so close on the couch, just two writer girls, working. And at lunchtime…she was done. Done! Wow. She wrote her last email, attached the article, and sent it off.

Huge smile!

We high-fived, and we hugged, and I thought, "How cool is this kid?" The work was as hard as high school, maybe even university. To meet a deadline every week for seven weeks but one—that's a pretty big deal for anyone. And she wrote her butt off, every single time. Worked so hard, learned so much, was so focussed, and she persevered to the end. What an amazing girl. What an inspirational human bean.

Here are my girl's articles. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I do!

(All photos are courtesy of Youngzine. I really, really like this magazine. It's wonderful, and an awesome resource. Not only are the editors kind, generous and helpful, but at the magazine's heart is the education and empowerment of kids. All of my favourite things!)

Friday, August 3, 2012

small good things: juggling boy

I've had two nights where I've turned off my brain early and prioritised going to bed before midnight. Even though the computer and my ideas and the books have all said, "But please don't go! We'll eat you up, we love you so!" I've made myself get into my jammies, crawl into bed, turn off the light, and go to sleep.

Which, now I'm much better and I'm not coughing 'til dawn, has meant whole nights of great sleep, solid sleep, sleep filled with dreams
 (including one where I actually dreamed I was sorting out my garage/playroom box by box! And no, it wasn't a nightmare where the boxes kept multiplying and repacking themselves…But maybe I woke up before that part happened…)

I've had some time to think about this month and whether I wanted there to be a focus or a "theme." I really, really (really!) loved my month of beauty. So today I thought, well, why not give another theme a try?

So this August, I dedicate my posts to all the small, good things.

Something small that made me smile or I want to share. Something simple (or simply lovely) I've enjoyed. Something Just Plain Good.

Here's my boy. He's juggling. Cool, huh?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

month of beauty: a beautiful life

I went to the doctor today. He was very thorough; somehow in our half hour appointment, he managed to assess my flu, give me a script for antibiotics, chat to me about herbal medicine vs drugs, give me a referral to an eye doctor, and assess my mental health. He wrote on my revised and renewed mental health plan: “Doing marvelously.”

In my head I saw a big exclamation mark at the end of that sentence! And he bulk-billed the entire thing, so the government footed the bill. Nice. 

I drove home along the freeway, listening to the radio. It was Coldplay, the new one with Rihanna, the kind of pop song with that indefinable hook, where you can't help but sing along. 

I felt so happy, so clear. And just like that, the world began moving in slow motion.

Because I had a sudden, vivid flashback to late November last year. 

I remember driving to the doctors then, along the same freeway, crying. I remember feeling hopeless. Beyond hopeless. For a fleeting, unbearable second, I thought of doing something stupid there on the road, with my car and the freeway walls. I remember talking to the doctor ten minutes later. I remember the terrible weight of being seriously clinically depressed.

I remember.

I got through that day last November and many more, always loving my kids, smiling at friends, but feeling so lost sometimes in my time alone I couldn’t see my way out or through. 

And just as I thought I’d never get out, I’d never be free,

something changed. 

I reached out my arms for help. Hands came, and saved me. 

And in early January, wellness began. And grew. And grew.

7 months later, here I am. Driving along the freeway, hope in my heart, Coldplay crooning in my ears, sun shining like crazy, singing along with my flu-cracked voice.

And the gratitude came up in a shining wave and I cried.

How clear the hills were—all rumpled greens and shadows. 
How crisp the notes, lifting up.
How calm my hands felt, resting on the steering wheel.
How bright and clean the sun.

How lucky I am.
How alive I am.

How beautiful, achingly beautiful life is.

I get to live it, and,
for as long as I am here,
I get to look for the beauty, every single day,
and find the joy.

I am so grateful. 

I have loved my month of beauty. I swear, it's so clear now—it’s like beauty sings to me every day.

I began this month, on "day one," with a tribute to Jennifer. I continued the month of beauty, because she inspired me. 

Jenn looked for beauty all the time. We talked about, and she wrote about, and we connected deeply about the beauty of positivity, the beauty of looking for and finding the joy, the beauty of family and friends, and the beauty of giving love. She "beautified" her days in small and simple ways, often just by noticing good, small moments, simple elegant things, and being grateful for them. Jennifer lived so fully, so lovingly, so givingly. I am so glad I knew her. 

This month was for honouring and celebrating a life of beauty.

Thank you so much, for coming along with me on this special ride.