Monday, April 30, 2012

things that are hard/things that are easy

It's hard to have SO many words rocketing about inside my brain
and find I don't have, or take, the time to write them down.

It's easy to spend the time I have, instead,
with my two incredible, beautiful, laughing, interested, excited, talkative, supportive, sensitive, kind kids.

It's hard to miss a man for two weeks,
to talk to him via computer and have him be so close
and yet so very very far away.

It's easy, so easy to look forward to him coming home.
In just 12 hours.

It's hard to have adventures, the daily kind and the more adventurous kind, and not write about them here (yet).

It's easy to have the adventures :)

It's hard to love a kitten who causes so much trouble.

It's easy to love a kitten when she can't decide whether to sit on your daughter's lap or yours, so she chooses both.

It's hard to miss a homeschool camp because you're fixing (or trying to fix) a kitten's mess.

It's suddenly, surprisingly, easy to accept this, and not miss what you can't have.
(How did I find clarity and peace about this, when through my whole history I hardly ever have? I'm not sure. Perhaps it's because in the moment of cancelling going to camp, I sat on my ruined carpet, beside my dog and I allowed myself to cry.
And then…? Well, I guess, I got up.
And hung out with my incredible, beautiful, laughing, interested, excited, talkative, supportive, sensitive, kind kids.)

It's hard for me (sometimes/often), to keep up with people's blogs and comment and be there for online friends who have been there for me.

It is easy, when I do go visit my friends' words,
to read and be inspired through and through.

(And tonight one friend both inspired me and gave me a link to a band I instantly fell in love with. A band I'm listening to as I write these very words. Thank you, MJ!).

It was hard, to not be with my husband as he visited a particular friend while overseas,
a friend I would give so much to see, to hug and laugh and laugh with.
So here is another hug, and another, sent across the sea to you, dearest Jennifer.

It is easy to love this friend.

It is easy to love my friends. Friends so far, friends so close. All.

It is easy to breathe in.

It is easy to watch the dog sleeping.

It is easy to go upstairs to lie beside my kids, curl up close and hear how much they love me, and say how much I love them.

It is easy—strangely/beautifully—to accept
…all the Busy
of a man being away and a kitten being crazy and the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, the going to and fro and
…the quiet of night,
and all the seconds between my seeing him and my seeing him.

Because I will see him.

Because Busy can and does bring such joy.

Because Hard is just one feeling among many (Delight. Serenity. Grief. Love) that I will pass through.

It is easy to let music hold you.

It is easy, in this moment,

to simply Be.

This song is just stunning, isn't it? I loved the sound of it, and now that I've finished writing, I'm actually listening to the lyrics. My goodness. My goodness. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I HEART homeschool

Ah, what an amazing day. The kind of day you actually notice as you're living it. The kind of day you and your kids cherish over lunch,
as you stop to look at each other and one of you says,
"Are you happy?"
And the other says, "Yeah, yeah, I'm really happy. You?" and the other says, "Yeah. Yeah, I am!"
And you all just grin.

Our days, every day, are our own, to fill with joy and learning. We homeschool and we are free. It's that simple. The kids love to learn, and when I relax into that and leave them to follow their own paths, the learning is almost effortless. It's just…Ah… you know that feeling? That singing in the heart feeling? When you know you've done the right thing, to go on this journey? It's serendipity; it's just truth.

What did we do today that was so great, anyway? Well, we all read, for a start—in our beds and leaning over our breakfast bowls. Because that's how our days always begin.

And then a boy cleared the dishwasher and smiled to hear me thank him, to hear how much he helps me by doing this.

And a girl continued to design her brand new website! It's yet to be published, but filled with stories and poems and gorgeous cat facts. She has been working on this for days.

And a boy went into the playroom to practice. He can spend forever in there, drumming, piano-ing… and the new passion? Trombone, which he is teaching himself, while his dad's away. For hours he's been hooting away in there, checking notes on the piano, singing to himself. It's just lovely.

And a girl and I talked about long division. We sat on the couch and chatted about it, looked it up on the Web, practiced it a little bit. Not for long and not too hard. And today, 'cause we were totally chilled, I think she finally got it! Which says to me: Hey. Lady. Don't sweat the maths. Your girl is going to be fine.

And then a boy and a girl and I started our New Venture—Computer Science 101!

It's through Coursera, which provides online courses by top colleges in the US. We're doing a computer programming course, and it's being run by Stanford. Oh my goodness—Stanford! My girl is 9, my boy is 11 and they're doing a college course. That blows. my. mind.

We had so much fun. We learned about code and strings and syntax and got to practice and do little quizzes which weren't timed or stressful, and the kids didn't want to stop. The only reason we took a break was 'cause it was lunch time and I was so hungry! But we get to do lots more—it's a ten week course. And the kids can't wait to get back to it.

And…a boy worked on his story for the Art Gallery writing competition. My girl already finished hers, but my boy needed to do a major rewrite. He was kind of daunted, for a second, but then we chatted and I offered up some ideas and…he went for it. Totally rewrote the first section and made the story shine. He was so pleased.

And a girl wrote a new blog post! This time: Pandas. I didn't know they sometimes ate rodents! And there I was, thinking they were vegan :)

And a boy decided to finish another chapter review in his maths book (the textbook he asked for last year, and still wants to use!). We've realised he knows a heap of the stuff already, so he's started just doing the reviews instead of plodding away through each chapter, page after page just because that's what you normally do. And if he comes across something he doesn't know? Well, that's when he can go and learn it. So much more sensible.

And we didn't call the Cat Society, for the second day in a row.

Why not? Well, because it's hard. We feel so torn, between claiming some sanity, and trying to make our two cat house work. The kitten has been a darling, ever since I wrote my last post. And the cats have, bizarrely, been mellow together—even cuddling up to sleep on the chair. And the children just love her, even my boy. … Could the winds have changed? Could our luck be turning?

So today, instead of giving up our kitten, we looked up pet enclosures—thanks to Joanne's suggestion in the comments on my last post. (Thank you so much, Joanne). And I am crossing my fingers that this will work—that we will figure this crazy business out.

And then, a boy and a girl and I went for a walk with the dog. Who is on arthritis medicine now, so today he found a new lease on life. He galloped today. Galloped! And rolled in the grass, over and over, tail wildly wagging.

Meanwhile the kids and I acted out a fantasy game while we walked. It's based on these characters the kids have made up. I was a combination cat-bird called Prince Felix. And my girl was a 'Katrine,' and my boy was a 'Kyrie.' These characters are so clear and real in their heads. My boy made them up, along with the world they live in—the Kingdom of Loth. It's so complicated in there! But the kids know the world intimately and play in it all the time.

And a boy and a girl and I got to talk to Dad via Skype! He's in San Francisco right now (my other home!). He's having a beautiful time. He has a cold, and I miss him, but it's so good (and I feel so lucky) to talk to him every day.

playing trombone for Dad

And a girl wrote a new story—this one about her Kyrie character, pages and pages of it.

And a boy drew, and drew and drew. Aren't these stunning?????

And then…we ate home-made pizza, which was divine—topped with spinach, caramelised onion, mushroom, tomato, olives and a sprinkling of soy cheese. Yummo. And we talked about veganism, and about nutrition and protein and heart disease and animal welfare. You know—a typical dinner conversation :)

And a boy and a girl drifted upstairs to read, making the day complete.

And that
was our homeschool day!

Our life learning, love-learning, free-flowing, fits-us-just-right day.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

A rock, a hard place

My friend, the kitten, knows something is up. She has been on my lap or by my side now for hours. When we got home last night, she crawled onto my lap three separate times, purring madly. Now, she is curled beside the computer, staying near. First, she walked up to me and said, "Mow?" 

I looked down. 

"Mow?" she asked again.

"You want to get up?"


Up she hopped, to splay herself along the line of my legs. To hook her claw in my pants to stop herself sliding off onto her head. To slide, plonk, onto the floor. And up again, to sit beside my little laptop, in the gentle morning, to lick herself quietly close by.

She knows, I think. Or senses a shift in the air, in the energy, in the way we look at her, in the feeling here.

In the last month, this kitten (who is really a cat, but will always be a kitten to us) has peed on so many things we have lost count. She has battled for territory and dominance with our other cat since the moment she arrived, a year ago. There have been wee issues since the beginning, but I thought they'd mostly settled down. A wee here, a wee there, really, what's a wee amongst friends? But since we went to homeschool camp, the surprise pee attacks have intensified (now that's a sentence you don't read every day). Bathmats, books, shopping bags, toys, carpet, even the couch. Yuck.

And in the six days since my husband left for overseas—the days I needed to keep Simple—things have gone from bad to Busted. One swim bag and jacket have been wrecked, one bookcase is wrecked and now outside, and the carpet is wrecked and has to be replaced immediately.

Ah. This is when you breathe. And finally kind of break, too, because we've been dealing with this since day one. But the idea of giving up something your girl loves to distraction has been impossible, so we've lived with the fighting and the craziness and the wee, and we've cleaned up and tried to find ways to make it stop. But it hasn't stopped, and now I'm breathing and breaking, both.

And with a husband not here to help carry the Hard, you find yourself mopping, scrubbing, washing, with tears drifting down your face. You're not sobbing or angry, you're just…leaking.

The RSPCA won't rehouse her. With her history, they said, she would be euthanised. I've put out a call to friends, but who wants a cat who might pee all over their life? My sister has suggested the Cat Protection Society. They have a no-kill policy and work to find homes for all cats given into their care. I'm calling them on Monday.

In the meantime, my son has taken to sighing deeply. My daughter alternates between being strong and face-tremblingly-sad at the thought of saying goodbye. She loves this little cat deeper than I've known anyone to love an animal. This cat with the personality of a storm, delighting and distracting us, this little creature who has made us laugh almost every day, who has curled into our hearts and stuck.

These days are hard. And the kitten, now back on my lap, is lying with her belly turned up a little. Just in case someone might lean forward, in this moment, and kiss her.

(And yep, we've got two wee boxes. We've tried having the cats outside for a very short time, at the cost to the native bird and lizards who didn't make it out alive. We separate the cats fairly often, but can't keep the doors shut all the time. It's not a urinary tract infection. It's deliberate pee sabotage by a stressed out cat. If I lived always primed for a fight, and couldn't claim a piece of space that was all my own, and was fairly simple minded, I think I'd pee on the couch too.  Just saying.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

10,000 years

The dermatologist looked very worried.

My girl and I had come in about her hands—the rash that had been on my daughter's fingers on and off, for almost three years, the rash we'd tried everything to treat. Things like moisturisers of all kinds, cortisone and most recently anti-fungal creams, soap free soaps and cutting wheat, tomato, orange, yeast and mango from her diet.

The man listened carefully enough, but when—ultimately—I said the words,
"And we're vegan,"
he came sharply to attention.

"Well, that's a very restricted diet."

Yes, I said, for now, while we work out what this is…

"You know, humans were born omnivores." He looked sternly over at me, like someone issuing a fine.

Ah, I thought. I see where this is going.

"Ten thousand years ago, people were eating the same things they eat today. It's what we're supposed to eat."

I watched the man, clear-eyed and calm. But said nothing.

"I mean, sure, farming practices are less than desirable…"

No response. Just watch…and wait.

"I think she needs a blood test. I think we're going to find some pretty major vitamin deficiencies here."

My daughter began to cry.

I tilted towards my girl. I put my arm around her. Then I leaned forward and said, We give her supplements, and I've done a lot of research on her diet. I actually think we're eating pretty well. 
The fungal cream seemed to work quite well…so maybe that was it? And I was also thinking it might be food allergies. Would a skin patch test help?

"Oh," he said, as he typed into his computer, "I think we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves here! I mean, look, she has photosensitivity, which indicates a serious iron deficiency, and she has extremely pale lips…do you even eat eggs?"

No, I said, sitting back in my seat.

"Well, then she won't have zinc."

He whipped off the form for the blood test. He told us what moisturiser to use. He told us he couldn't believe the anti-fungal cream (which had recently cleared her skin) could be the solution. He said, "Come back after Easter."

When a professional, a doctor, tells you you're making a mistake, you start to wonder.

Even though the kids and I laughed it off as we were going home, even though I had done my research, read my books, read countless articles, recipes, nutritional facts, I thought:

What if he's right?
What if my child is malnourished?
What if the blood test comes back and she's deficient?
What if this isn't a healthy diet?

What if—the two words that can knot a person tight with worry.

So, what did I do?
Well, for a single, long day following the appointment, I craved roast chicken. Wild. For the ENTIRE day, all I could think about were breasts and drumsticks. It was wacky. It was nuts.

The next day, I woke up and my mind was clear.
Weird chicken worry cravings all gone.

And I researched some more.
I pored over my cookbooks and nutrition information again.
I ordered more books. Vegan books and books about food production and modern agriculture. Books about the benefits of a plant-based diet.
I watched lectures by scientists and nutritionists about dairy and related health issues.
I watched well-researched people give lectures about factory farming.

My resolve came back.

And as I've been doing for the past 6 months I kept on feeding my kids delicious vegan food.
Like lasagne-to-die-for. Breakfast rice. Moroccan sweet potato stew. Lentil bolognese. Pasta with spinach, cannellini beans and pesto. Protein smoothies. YUM.
And I kept up with the kids' supplements—their iron, zinc, and B12.

Fast forward two weeks,

to today.

When we went in to see the dermatologist again.

We'd used his recommended moisturiser, which helped. We'd gone back to tomato and oats, which my daughter loved and had really missed. We'd taken the recommended blood test. And I was ready.

Ready to hear that my daughter might be malnourished. And if she was I would make sure she'd be healthy…without giving up the one thing that matters most to my girl:

That she would not, ever, be asked to eat animals, or animal products.
Because my daughter's resolve has never wavered.

The doctor sat down with the blood test results in his hands. The results were…

Guess what.

Every. Single. Thing, every indicator (iron, protein, calcium, zinc, b12, etc) registered as Normal. Perfectly, utterly in the Normal range.

My daughter wasn't just 'getting by.' She was completely healthy. After 6 months as a vegan, and almost 2 years as a vegetarian, my sweet girl was a picture of nutritional health.


Yeah, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.


Yes. Ten thousand years ago, people were omnivores. We're still, biologically, omnivores. But we don't have to be. We don't need meat to survive any more. We can be healthy and never eat an animal again.


Monday, April 16, 2012

get your plane right on time

This song has been going through my head for days. It's been popping in, popping out, as my husband has prepared for his trip away.

And on our last afternoon together yesterday, we went to the beach. We were pottering around the rocks and the tide pools, the surf breaking on the rock edges, autumn sun at our backs. All my family close. All mine in this moment, with me…

…and just like that, I broke into song.

This song specifically. Suddenly there I was, warbling away.
I don't know that I could have kept it in!

And at some point mid-song, I realised…we weren't actually alone on the rocks. In fact there was a little family directly behind me…right behind my back.

So I slowly faded out, like someone was turning down my volume. And I then I started chatting to my son, acting all, "Oh, and anyway, look at this pool!" like I'd never been singing at all.

Not embarrassing in the slightest!

But even though it was kind of embarrassing, it kind of wasn't too,

because the song had to be sung.

Because my emotions were buzzing out of me, in that moment, by the sea, with those I love most close by and so dear.

Because my best friend was about to take off over this water. And be gone for some time. And my nerves felt a little like fire at the thought—of him going, away and without us. And I wanted to know he would be safe and I wanted him to be well and I wanted the trip to be a wild and beautiful success. And I wanted him close and I wanted him not to go and I wanted him to go, all at once, in a ball of tangled nerves and fire by my heart.

So I sang. Just like that. Out over the water.

I adore this song. Always have.

My whole life I've sung it, and now I wonder,

have I always sung it when I've felt life—and love—this hard and tender? This pure and this big?

Maybe I have.

I love you, Mr Beautiful. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

the whirl and the wait

We're in a bit of limbo right now,

with a husband about to leave for a long trip overseas,
on a big band tour he has organised pretty much singlehandedly. (Yes, he is amazing)

And his busy-ness, his leaving the house at 4am to finalise details, and all the last minute hiccups and bits,
sits with the months of planning and fundraising and suddenly,
this about-to-leave time feels full, like a weight

As he works tirelessly and prepares for hours, I am,
quietly, simply,
waiting for him to leave.

Which must seem a strange thing to say!

But what I mean is,
I don't want to add my own Busy to all that energy. I've tried that, and it doesn't work out for me.

Instead, these days, when the world starts to whirl a bit too fast,
I slow right down, so I don't spin into someone else's wind.
So I don't pick up the Busy as though it's my own, and try to carry it.

This last week before the trip, then, has been filled with simple. With reading. Cleaning the pantry. Writing a recipe for my vegan blog. Taking the train to the iceream/sorbet shop. Beach visits, and the dog resting his head on my knee as I watch the waves. 

It's been marked with noticing all the 
small, good things 
as time twirls by.

And they have been beautiful

Friday, April 13, 2012

home again

Hello, oh, hello!

I don't suppose anyone's here? I feel like I've left my own birthday party, gone for a long walk, and come back well after the last person's gone home. All that's left are sticky punch marks on the table, potato chip bits on the floor, one light flickering in the corner, streamers dangling…

… it's quiet and it's dark…

but hey! I'm back now, and it was a good, healing, happy walk. The best kind of walk to take :)

So how were my wanderings? My month off, and away?

Where do I begin??

Well, first off, straight after my triathlon, there was

a week-long homeschool camp down south,
where the kids made friends, did science, drama, archery, went abseiling and swimming, and learned to use Diablos. Such an adventure!

It was all so fun, and challenging, and new and exciting…but I have to confess that my favourite afternoon was this: when the kids and I strolled up the hill to sit quietly under two enormous fig trees to draw. With the wind lifting from the lake and birds chasing each other through the blue…
it was lovely.

And then there was
a concert where my son played with 168 other kids
in a Megaband that my husband directed
wearing the band t-shirts I'd designed (for the 5th year in a row!). Such fun.

And there were other concerts, jazz and classical…

And art gallery days…

And new sewing lessons for a girl…

And writers workshop…

And visits with dear friends (with much tea and talking and laughing!)…

And visits to Sydney to see my mum, my sister, my niece…

And visits from my husband's old friends from the US (including Dominic who, along with his wife, reads this blog. Hi guys, sorry 'bout all the quiet!)

And there was even a date night in Sydney, with my husband, to see the extraordinary, captivating, James Vincent McMorrow.


There's been homeschooling, as always, which for a number of reasons looked a bit more schooly this term…
but then this month we drifted—inexorably, inevitably, sweetly—
back to our most comfortable way of being…

which was doing what felt right… in the moment,
for the moment, and
learning all the time.

There has been a LOT of cycling! And walking. And beaching. And happy dog strolling.

The weather has taken a turn for the Winter, but the sun's still mostly out. Beach is still, and always, beautiful.

There has been going to bed early
and eating well
and exercising
and seeing the health-care people I need to see
and talking with my family and with friends.

And there have been tricky bits, like the meltdown moment I had the other day. It brought on a classic case of what I've come to call "The Sends."
If you're a homeschooler, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about! That moment when everything suddenly gets too much and you find yourself saying: "This isn't working! Looks like it's school for you!"

The moment passed. I apologised. And the kids have now got me pegged—the only time I ever threaten school is a) when I really need to eat, and/or b) when I really need walkies. So, as long as I'm fed and let out at least once a day for a run (bike/swim/walk), they know they can be clear of school forever. Clever kids.

I've done a lot of thinking about this Blog,
and wondering when I'll get back to writing in it.

I've had words to write every single day. Truly! But the days have careened by and all of a sudden, every night, it's bed time or talk-to-hubby time, or a beautiful child needs an extra cuddle, and so the time moves on.

I've felt bad for not visiting other peoples' words—all your lovely lives and thoughts and wonderings. I found myself thinking, "I shouldn't write here—not if I don't stop and say hello to you all. But I don't know how to fit it all in, the living and the exercising and the getting well and the writing and the saying hello."

But then, today I figured, "You know what? I'm just going to write here and stop worrying."

'Cos that's how it's supposed to be, isn't it?

You're supposed to be true.

Be kind, to yourself. To others. Be with those you love.

Be well.

Go for long walks. Take the time.

And then,

just write.

Oh, and I've started a little other blog, a side blog, a moonlighting blog…just today, in fact.

It's called Vegan Stories, and it's a place for me to write about our vegan journey. I've been thinking about it a lot, this vegan thing we're doing—I've been learning more, cooking yummy meals, thinking, thinking, thinking. I thought that if I wrote it all here, it would change this blog too much, give it too small a focus. So I decided to create a special place to share all these thoughts. :)

I hope you stop by, all you dear people who are still here!

All of you knowing I was just out walking,

knowing that the gathering, talking, laughing could begin again

the moment I returned.