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. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

month of beauty: so small / so strong

My boy made porridge for us this morning.

I'd shown him how to do it about a week ago, but hadn't written a recipe down.

Down the stairs I came at 9am, after another really rough night of coughing and just-not-sleeping,

and there he was.

Standing by the stove, stirring.

He turned and said, "Mum, just go back to bed! I'll bring this up to you."

Turned out he'd looked up a recipe online, found all the ingredients, tweaked the recipe, sliced up bananas and stood, stirring, for the ages it takes to make porridge right.

You can imagine.

The light coming in quietly from the kitchen window,

the table set,

a boy making something for his mother.

I danced with my girl this evening.

I don't remember what we were listening to; it might have even been something she made up.

But I wrapped my arms around her and she wrapped her arms around me

and she sang her funny lyrics, grinning and grinning

as we swayed together.

So silly and jolly, and she had such an impish smile and at some point I laughed 'til I had to stop for coughing.

And she looked at me with so much love in her eyes

my heart swelled and swelled.

And I thought tonight

about things so small,

things you remember even though they are gone an instant later,

how something so small can become something so strong.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

month of beauty: someone else's eyes

It's strange, to go from a completely full-on week, of writers workshops and drama group, a big trip out to the Blue Mountains and days of Super Busy,

to spending two days in bed.

Yesterday I was up and about, crackly-voiced but mostly upright, until 2pm when it suddenly felt like a truck had come up and parked on my chest.

Since then, I've slept, coughed, slept, read, coughed, slept. And coughed!

Today was such a beautiful day. I slept the night on the couch downstairs, so as not to keep everyone awake from my coughing, and I heard the birds wake outside. The chook started to pa-cark, and the kitten stood over me asking for breakfast. I moved the blinds aside a little bit later, and saw the blue.

Beautiful sky, a day made for hiking, and a hike with friends was exactly what we were supposed to do. But I'd had maybe four hours interrupted sleep, and a hike was exactly what I wasn't going to do. I didn't just feel sick, I felt disappointed, and a bit sorry for myself.

But only for a second, because then I thought, honestly, of Jennifer. And of the quote I used last night in my blog.

On the one hand, there is the bad. On the other hand, carried tenderly in your palm, is the good. If you look, if you are able and are open, the good is always waiting there. Jennifer always looked, was always open, and she always, always found it.

So I took myself upstairs, and I thought: The bad thing is, I have to be in bed all day today. The good thing is, I get to be in bed all day.

I thought, I don't get to hang out with my kids today, but my husband does. I don't get to play with my kids, but I hear their laughter downstairs. And every minute they know I'm awake, the kids will come (like I'm a magnet and they're the little iron shavings) and lie in bed with me, show me things and cuddle, and want to be close.

I don't get to pull my weight today, preparing lunches, doing the laundry and the groceries, but I have a husband who will, and does, willingly.  I don't get to be up and about having adventures, but I do get to sleep and read my book all day. All day, like I'm at a spa or a hotel, where the staff will cater to my every need—bring me water, medicine, food, and lay cool hands on my forehead. And the cats? Well the cats will come and keep me company.

These are my only photos this weekend—my husband took the rest.

He was in charge of capturing the beauty for our little family, as, from bed,
I captured mine.

view from our minivan early on Saturday morning
as my husband sat and practiced by the beach

a Shmoo
A boy's first "Serious About Circus" advanced class on Saturday (he had a BLAST!),
and straight afterwards,

a boy playing with his buddies in the sun.

a boy racing into Sunday

with a girl,

making bridges


which turned into dams…

that had to be devotedly maintained.

And a girl ran a rock and charcoal shop,

while a Dad relaxed into


Saturday, July 28, 2012

month of beauty: memories and beginnings

Today, my husband called Jennifer's husband Dennis. It's the first chance they've had to talk since Jennifer passed away.

Well, to be exact, they "face timed"—something Dennis had never done before. (If you haven't done it either and have no idea what it is: think super-easy Skype for iPhones). They looked at each other on their little screens, chatted, laughed, and checked that the other was okay, these two best friends. And at some point…well, my husband may or may not have shown Dennis some chicken poo on our lawn.

I got to pop outside (they were chatting in the back yard) and say, "Hey," and smile so wide, and say I'd lost my voice. Dennis got to say, "I hope you find it," and smile back. And I got to pass on my big love to their son, Little J. Then I left the boys to talking.

They've been best friends for 20 years.

Dennis was getting his camping gear sorted, getting ready for an incredibly important weekend. This  weekend, people who love Jennifer are walking in the Relay for Life, in "Sugartown," California. People I love and people I have never met, people who knew Jennifer and didn't, are walking together, camping together, remembering together, loving together, raising money together, being committed to something compassionate and heartfelt together.

Could there be anything more beautiful?

Dennis posted a link on his Facebook page today—to an article in the paper, about Jennifer and her role in last year's Relay, and about her precious family. It's about who Jennifer was, and Dennis, and about beginnings for him and little J. If you read the article, you will get a glimpse of Jenn's amazing nature, her incredible spirit, her positivity, her kindness and her beautiful compassion. 

Here is a little quote. It is a wonderful article. If you get a chance, do, please, read the rest. 
"Near the end, at the hospital, Jenn held my hand and said, 'The bad news is that you have to start all over again, but the good news is that you get to start all over again.' You have to deal with your emotions, but you have all this beautiful life ahead that you're going to experience. We have to get as much out of life for as many people as we can. James knows that now, and I think that's a little bit of the spirit of Relay for Life."

And tonight I dug out some old pictures, from our wedding long ago, in a little beach house just north of San Francisco. There's Dennis standing by Eric's side as best man, and Jenn and Dennis helping us prepare salads for our little gathering, and Jennifer talking to everyone. We were so happy together. As we always were.

And how could you not be? When there's so much talking and smiling and loving to do? When there are memories to build and beginnings to share? How could you not breathe in the Beauty and hold it close, forever?

from the article (and Dennis's own photos)

Friday, July 27, 2012

month of beauty: in sickness and in joy

Well, it had to happen.

After getting through two weeks of colds in my house, first my boy, then my girl, then my husband,

then going hard for two straight days (yesterday being a 10-hour-marathon of being out, today going  eleven straight hours—half of them spent driving!),

plus all my enthusiastic calling out, of games and instructions, over the voices and laughter of 20 + drama-happy kids yesterday, and yep,

I'm sick.

I've totally (well, almost totally!) lost my voice. I keep trying to speak, and this wild husky crackle comes out.

My chest is sore from coughing,

and I'm coughing all this interesting censored up! Not a pretty sight!

So this post will come at you at a whisper. If you can't hear me, just lean forward… There, is that better?

We went to the Blue Mountains today (an almost 3-hour drive!) for a picture book workshop with this guy Tohby Riddle. I've been a fan of his for 20 years. I got to actually do the workshop with my kids. We worked on our stories, drew illustrations, story-boarded our stories, and for the ones who really had it together (not me), began creating an actual mock-up of a 32 page picture book!

It was awesome. I got to ask heaps of questions. Tohby was incredibly kind and gracious—full to the brim with helpful suggestions and a whole lot of wisdom. I loved that I got to learn alongside the kids. Just loved that. That is homeschooling, for me, at its absolute best.


Did I take a single picture while we were there, like a normal person would (and should)?

Did I take a photo of Tohby with my kids?

Did I get his autograph like the super-savvy and very cool teenage homeschoolers there?



Afterwards, I decided the total lack of documentation of one of the coolest things I've done, like, ever, is because I was savouring the moment. I was living it, taking mental photos, actively participating in my Now.

Yes. That's why!

Anyway, he looks like this,


he's the guy with a bird on his head


and he is as great as I thought he would be. Everyone in the world should read his books.

Afterwards we got to go to Rubyfruit, the divine vegan cafe just down the road. You know, the one I've mentioned before and am totally in love with.

Double-plus yummy!

And then we got to go to a toy shop that my girl has been asking, and asking (and asking) to go to for months.

So. Much. Fun.

I mean, look at this place.

a wall of Webkinz! Look, Kei! 

One of the things in this picture was sold for $4000. I wonder which one?

My girl got to reunite with a toy that she'd left long long ago, in a car in Samoa.

My girl had scoped out this store on the internet, told us about it, then told us we really must go, because there, waiting for her, was a long-lost Storm!

But as it turns out, a toy can't actually ever be replaced. You didn't know that? Now you know. Storm was a one-of-a-kind kitten, after all. So this dear, identical kitty is called Echo. She is Storm's sister. (And I just found out she's French! Can't wait to hear her speak). Isn't she lovely?

Anyway, then I drove all the way home. As I drove, my voice gradually disappeared. In the end, I had to signal to the kids when I needed to speak, so they could be very quiet and listen!

I've come home sick and totally out-of-voice.

It's been a long day and I'm physically done.

But wow, it was beautiful.

I'll be sitting back tomorrow in serene silence, remembering the day, coughing up all that  censored, and smiling from my toes up.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

month of beauty: Postcard from a Very Busy Day

All right, a postcard isn't quite exact. Postcards normally come with an actual image, something you can actually look at.

So, this is a mental postcard. You have to shut your eyes and imagine!

Well…Open your eyes, first. Then read my words. Then shut your eyes. And Imagine. In that order :)

Overcast day. Rain hovering.

Day brimming with possibility.

Time for Tennis!

Imagine the court, the links in the chain fence, the green fake turf, the cockatoos flying overhead. The pretend hawk tied to the light poles to scare away the cockatoos.

Imagine my girl running for the balls. Backhand! Forehand! Run in for the volley! Imagine my boy hitting smash after smash. Now serving. Now picking up balls with these long plastic tubey things that are really fun to wander about with (imagine me doing that for the hour as the kids learn tennis-y things).

Tennis lesson over. Time for the Library!

Image standing in the community centre, asking about renting a room for a possible class I might be doing. Another class! This time non-fiction. Should be a lot of fun. Imagine the kids laughing and chattering beside me. Imagine old men wandering by with their library bags and grey shorts.

Imagine the noisy library where we scope out the reference section. Might work for an essay class—it's the only quiet corner here. We know the librarian. She's a neighbour and she's lovely. Imagine two women chatting. Imagine my girl finding a book about cloning animals and my boy finding a book about breaking codes. Imagine all the lovely books wafting out words like a scent.

Library visit done. Time for Lunch in the Gardens!

Imagine a huge tree shaped like broccoli. Imagine long roots meandering like sleepy snakes, wood chips and leaves making a crunchy carpet. Imagine a picnic under the branches which lean down all the way to the ground, so people looking in can hardly see us. Imagine how my husband works in the beautiful old building nearby and we get him to join us for a magical fifteen minutes. Imagine the Cosy.

Lunch finished. Time for Homeschool Drama Group!

Imagine children running over the grass to the little theatre in the woods. Imagine how you can't see this either, from far away. It's like a secret garden, with a wooden stage, built around actual trees. Imagine game after game after game. Imagine children pretending to do Olympic sports; imagine children from 5 to 15 pretending to compete in a triathlon, every part of it, all in s l o w   m o t i o n. Imagine the laughter, ribboning around the tree trunks, up into the leaves, startling the sparrows. Imagine the delighted parents and the dads taking photos. Imagine kids red-faced and happy-tired. Imagine.

Drama Group complete. Time for Hot Chips by the Beach!

Imagine a mum and her two zipping off to the cafe by the Harbour. Imagine the chips coming fresh with salt, chips too hot to touch so you grab them gingerly and try to bite teeny pieces off without burning your tongue. Imagine lovely soy hot chocolates for a boy and his mama, and lemon sorbet for a girl. Imagine people watching—a whole troop of police officers coming in for food and the three of us thinking up a story to go with them. Imagine the sea and the seagull with a single foot, hovering in the wind.

Hot Chips eaten. Time for Art Class!

Imagine heading to the room above the art supply store. The room we've been coming to for six years for lessons with the lovely Anna. Imagine how whenever the kids do any art at home, they say, "I need to show this to Anna." Imagine the focus of five children, bent over paper clipped to boards. Imagine how they work on sketch after sketch, Anna raising the bar just a bit higher and a bit higher and asking them to reach. They always want to reach, for her. Imagine a teacher who changes children's lives.

Art Class ended. Time for Circus Class!

Really? Really? Yes. Keep imagining, please, because it's so lovely. Imagine a boy and a girl and a father this time, joining the evening juggling class. Imagine a boy making a breakthrough with juggling clubs, and a girl getting the hang, more and more, of moving these objects through the air. Imagine a man delighted, just to be there with his kids.

Circus Class complete. Time for Home!

Yes. Home. Finally. Imagine walking in, and sniffing. Lentil Bolognese! A mama is waiting with hot dinner, just made. Imagine the news. "And mum, I learned this! And I did this! And it went like this!" Imagine a boy bouncing bounce balls and talking and talking. Imagine a girl quickly reading another page of a much-loved book as pasta and sauce is ladled onto plates. Imagine the dinner conversation, words darting about like hummingbirds.

Dinner gobbled. Time for Bed.

Imagine the soft arms around a mama's shoulders. Imagine kisses and sleepy last things said. Imagine the mama reminding the kids that she'd be waking them early the next morning. For the next adventure. The next lovely thing. Imagine the drowsy dark. Imagine smiling, to hear how much beauty there could be in a single day, and how much more there is to come.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

month of beauty: busy

The days are so busy!

Busy with writing (a girl working on a Youngzine essay all weekend, and her mama helping),

busy with music (a boy having a gig this Saturday plus classes and combos through the week),

busy with art (water colouring every day, and art class tomorrow),

busy with more writing (running two writers workshops this week, on back-to-back days),

busy with drama (a new homeschool drama workshop starting tomorrow, run by me and two very cool teenagers!),

busy with tennis lessons (starting back up again because the kids asked and asked),

busy with homeschool groups (going to two now, with such lovely people),

busy with special workshops (like driving two and a half hours this Friday to do a picture book workshop with one of my favourite writers and illustrators, Tohby Riddle. Weee!),

busy with cooking (yummy dinners made by my husband or I every night),

busy with cleaning (wow, I sure make a mess when I cook)

busy with sorting (finishing up a really full-on house reorganise), and

busy with circus (juggling class tomorrow and the beginning of a new adventure for my boy: an advanced circus class on Saturday!).

Plus, (plus!),

we're busy with cuddles

busy with dog pats
and cat-belly kisses

busy with talking (about worries and ideas and plans and joy)

busy with being together and

busy with doing things we love.

Busy with not worrying.

Busy with letting Busy be nothing more than

lots of activities that we seek to do and truly enjoy.

Busy with letting go emotionally,
of things that are hard or
the things I can't control.

Busy not doing some things, even though they sound fun!

Busy realising it's okay to say No,
and to create boundaries.

Busy with not being attached
to how things might turn out.

Busy with noticing how calm I feel
most days.

Busy observing how worry and fear hardly have a hold on me,

instead they scurry along beside me wondering why I don't pick them up any more.

Busy today is different

from the Busy I used to know.

When the Busy could overwhelm and bring me down.

Now, it hasn't the power.

Now, I don't give it the power.

Busy is simply a word.

And Busy can be so beautiful.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

month of beauty: how little it takes

This is how my day began,


and this is how it continued…

with Nana and the kids sitting at our lovely clear art table,
doing watercolours of Birds and Bees!

by a Nana

by a boy (watercolour and pencil)

by a girl (unfinished)

My cup runneth over.

(And I realise (and it's amazing)
how little it takes,

to find the joy now,

when every single part of me is open 
and looking.) 


Monday, July 23, 2012

month of beauty: man / child

Sometimes I look at him and see the man he will become.

I see kindness in his eyes, and the way he treats little kids, always with such gentleness. I see how fun he is with everyone he meets. He wants to make them laugh; he wants to include them; he wants to bring them joy.

I see his passions. Music, art, writing, throwing three balls then four, up into the air. I see other interests always brewing, a love for ancient history, a fascination with random scientific facts, and with maths (as long as it's complicated!). And I see a love for learning… as long as the learning involves a puzzle—a search like a treasure hunt—for the answers. I see my boy becoming an artist of the world, a traveler, a person buzzing, always, with curiosity.

I see him growing, taller, but never quickly enough for him. He doesn't want his shooting-up sister to overtake him. Unacceptable!

I see him heading off, already, into his own world. His music takes him to concerts without me, to performances and camps and band tours. Already he is gone from me for hours, and when he is home, he speaks of jazz musicians from the 50's like they're old friends. He explains music and jazz to me with such patience. He wants me to get it, so I can sit in his world with him and nod my head alongside him and then two of his great loves can be hand in hand.

I see, and know, that I am loved. Oh, how I am. He says it every day. He shares his thoughts, all day, as long as I can listen, he talks. And talks! He loves to tell me everything that's in his head. For hours.

We joke about how this might change. The teenage years are coming, fast. We talk about how one day, he might just answer me in grunts. We may not see eye to eye. He may want to do something I don't want him to do. We might disagree, heatedly. One day, we might even argue!

We laugh about it now. But who knows? It could happen.

Would I be ready? Is any mother ever ready?

Well…that's something I'll deal with another time…when/if I have to.

I operate now, as best I can, by my new mantra (one of my many!). I try not to worry about things that may or may not happen in the future. I try not to worry about things I have no control over. And I try not to worry about things I do have control over. That's a lot of things not to worry about.

For now, my young man is still my boy. He still needs reassurance at night sometimes, and he has his little rituals. He is adorable and loving, and sometimes, there are moments I suddenly remember him as a baby. And my insides flip.

I remember how every day, I would smooth my face over the top of his head, where a fuzz of hair lay, over and over. Because it was so soft, and because he was mine.

I remember his smell, and how I would breathe him in.

And every day I would take a little strand of my hair, and stroke it over his cheek.

He would make this noise as I did it. "Uh. Uh. Uh."

He would smile up at me. And I would smile down.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

month of beauty: Insta-Days and Finished Jobs

A boy and his Instagram

A man and his…

A mama and hers


a cosy spot for a cosy boy

a space left clear for a Tuss :)

old tv relegated to the corner…
brought out only for dvd night

a girl's kitten and a girl's art
(on an art table that has finally been cleared for art!)

room for everything

nothing's too colourful for this room!

lots of bookshelves and a spot for a sister's painting

more colourful nooks

room to read
with lamps in corners

clear surfaces
and a cat reflected

storage and space…ah.

there's always time for laughter!

an artist and her friend

 Job's done!

A few boxes still need to be sorted
(and other rooms are now yelling very loudly to be organised),
but our main living and learning space is now complete. 

Contented sigh!

As for Before pics… um, I really didn't take any. 


(I took a couple, but they didn't capture the state of the carpet, or the piled up Everything, or how all the Stuff suddenly felt like it was about to topple over, bury me, and leave me to dig my way out with a spoon)

I just wanted to sort it all out, and Before always looked too frustrating to capture.

So, Deb, I'm posting this only one, for you :)

ClutterPic from here

I swear, that's exactly what it looked like!

Here's hoping you find some space of your own to breathe,

on this beautiful day.