Christmas Love – From Me to You!

With just a few  hours until the magic of Christmas Eve arrives here in New Zealand, I am taking a moment to thank you all for supporting my writing and me this year.

The Mandy Diaries began as a therapeutic way of connection for me. It was a way of sharing and processing my thoughts and feelings; a way to look for and concentrate on the joy in my life. The Mandy Diaries, however, has become a healing passion for me. It is a place to tell my stories – as they are or were. To break down some of the stigma and myths associated with mental health issues. And to share my thoughts on current world events. I hope that you will continue to read, think, laugh, cry, grow and maybe even heal a little with me in 2016.

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The beautiful Pohutukawa tree known as the New Zealand Christmas tree.

As I will be spending the next few days at my Mum’s place and will not have internet – my prayer for each of you – my family, my old friends and my new online friends and readers, is that you would

  • Share a blessed and peaceful Christmas celebration with those you feel closest to
  • That you would hug those around you … not forgetting yourself because you deserve it
  • That you would give all you can to those less fortunate than yourself … be it by way of thoughts, words, prayers, or the giving of service or money

For those of us that cannot be with some of our loved ones because of distance, financial constraints, brokenness or death – I ask for a peaceful heart and sensitive, caring people around us, to understand those moments where we become lost in the crowd and choose silence or to shed a tear.  

So … remembering that Babe in the manger long ago, whose birth we celebrate.

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A very happy Christmas to you all!

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Advent in New Zealand!

The time leading into Christmas is usually a time of anticipation but always coloured with sadness for me.  Another wedding anniversary is remembered – alone.  The shopping, wrapping and giving of gifts is done – alone.  Flowers are laid on a grave – alone.  Decorations are pulled out and arranged – alone.  Church is attended – alone.  This has been the norm for me for the last 6 Christmas celebrations.

This year, with the encouragement of my Boys, I decided to do something different …. so I have traveled to my childhood home, New Zealand, to spend Christmas with my extended family.

I have, so enjoyed the special Christmas touches in the homes I have been lucky enough to be staying in.  Some old and memory inducing, many handcrafted and made with love, all adding to the festive times being celebrated.

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The Christmas trees have been beautifully decorated, just waiting for the parcels to be added beneath their splendour.

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I have been blessed to be able to visit with cousins, aunts, uncles and friends from University days.  Some I have not seen for 30+ years!   How easily relationships return and feel natural!  Age has given us perspective and wisdom but has not lessened the memories or ability to laugh and love.

So as I prepare for a big family celebration this Christmas – I am truly blessed to not be alone!

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Come Lord Jesus Come!

 

 

I’ll Be Home for Christmas.

I am going home for Christmas.  Home to New Zealand, to join with my Mum, Sister, Brother and their families and grandchildren and in-laws.  I am excited to be flying off in 3 days.  I haven’t had many extended family Christmases over the years.  When married to a Pastor, that was our busy time and after those years, it was the most expensive time to travel – so it just didn’t happen.  In the 35 years I’ve lived in Australia, this will be only my third Christmas home.  So I am excited.

Kiwi Christmas

I have always referred to New Zealand as my home because that is my birth place but having lived in Australia significantly longer than I did in NZ, I know that Australia is my real home now.  My Boys are Australian and I always find that as much as I love to visit my beautiful country of birth, by the end of my trip I am ready to go Home!

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*Pavlova Christmas Wreath with fresh berries.

So I am excited for my visit but I can also feel the sadness creeping up on me, as leaving day approaches.  This will be the first Christmas since we became a family, that I won’t be with any of my Boys on Christmas Day.  Some of us have been apart previously, but I have always had at least one of my Boys with me.  This year I could have had all 3 of them with me but circumstances prevailed.  (Story for another post!)   So my Boys will Christmas together and I will Christmas in NZ!

Not that I have missed out.  We have already shared Christmas celebrations with 2 of my Australian families and their kids.

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Typical Aussie Christmas Day lunch.

And I hope to share some Christmas cheer with my BFF  before we go to spend  An Evening with Oprah tomorrow night.  Did I even tell you that? ….. Oprah and Me!!!!!!  Bucket list ticking off happening right there!

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But I digress … It was so great to see my Boys in the pool with our friends kidlets or twirling them around and around or just generally having fun. Backyard cricket was the game of their day – pool cricket was what they were taught by the 3 & 6 year olds last night!!  Surely, it seems only yesterday that they were the ones being tossed in the pool or enjoying their presents.

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So, I prepare for my journey home with joy and anticipation.  Looking forward to making memories and filling my heart with love and blessings.  But each day, I may just be caught in thought of what those gorgeous Men that Adrian and I made together, might be doing at Home?  Knowing they are there for each other and totally enjoying their special Christmas together.

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Illustration by Julie Vivas from the book The Nativity.

*Pavlova Christmas Wreath with fresh berries recipe here.

Taking Stock – December Edition!

It was feeling like it was time to take stock again.  I really encourage you to have a quiet 30mins to yourself and do your own.  If you do want to do it yourself, I’ve added a blank template at the end.  If you publish on your own blog,  please credit Pip with the idea.

 

Making:  Decisions about a blog redesign and goals and direction.

Cooking:  Christmas wreath pavlova with berries and cream.

Xmas pav

Drinking:  Bubbly carbonated water from my new Soda Stream but it’s just not as bubbly as I remember it was as a kid!

Reading:  A great book on the practice of developing your creative writing. Truly the most useful book, called Writing Down the Bones (Freeing the Writer Within) by Natalie Goldberg

Wanting:  My paperwork to file itself.  I don’t know why I don’t do it as it comes.  How many years do you have to keep paperwork again?

Looking:  At the world in a new light through, my new glasses from Specsavers.  My sight has deteriorated significantly in my right eye, so it’s no wonder my eyes have been feeling so tired!  Also, love new frames.

Playing:  Christmas music from those old cd’s that you used to get free with Christmas edition magazines!  I have heaps – I used to buy All the magazines!!

Deciding:  What to give my boys for Christmas this year.  They will be together – I will be away.  They don’t know what they want and neither do I know what to get!

Wishing:  For just one more Christmas with Adrian.  I know it’s impossible but it does say wishing.

Enjoying:  Watching how easily my Boys slip back into the brotherly groove, even when they have not seen each other for 3 years and they are now 24, 30 & 32.  No doubt – something will be broken!!

Waiting:  For the postman to deliver my online gift purchases.  Everyday is a surprise as to what I will be wrapping each night.

Liking:  The way my tentative foray into gardening, is starting to show with patches of colour beginning to appear throughout.

Wondering:  How inspired I am going to be, when I get to hear Oprah on her  speaking tour in 10 days time?  Very, I hope – bucket list ticking  off happening that night.

Loving:  The way my love for life seems to be returning, after a very long couple of years.  Tiny steps on sure and stable ground.

Pondering:  On how I will financially sustain myself in the coming year?  Is there a job that I haven’t thought of yet, that will give me all I need?

Considering:  What the  best way to develop my writing is and if it really is a way to  help anyone else or just myself?

Buying:  New underwear from Bella Bodies ….. bamboo, people – very cooling!

Watching:  The Queensland storms roll in each afternoon.

Hoping:  Those storms bring cooling rain to clear the humidity – not just thunder, lightning and wind.

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Marvelling:  At my cat’s loyalty  to me, when I continually bring out my suitcase, and go away on holiday!  Off to New Zealand for Christmas with my extended family in, 12 days!

Cringing:  At the Channel 9 Cricket commentators.  Is anything more embarrassing?

Needing:  A  small garden shed and a decent office chair – for totally different reasons …. obviously!!

Questioning:  Everyone about what they would like for Christmas but desperately wanting to give surprises!

Smelling:  My beautiful  Night Before Christmas (Dancing Sugar Plums) candle by Megan Hess for Glasshouse Fragrances.

Wearing:  New comfy  Summer sandals by Rivers and loving them sick.9388WSAND_SANDTAUPE_side

Following:  The preseason and the drafting of the new Brisbane Lions players for 2016.

Noticing:  More and more, that if you take care of yourself, you are better prepared to care for others.

Knowing:  That I Can Do Hard Things and Love does Win! Thank you Glennon Doyle Melton.

Thinking:  “I’m contemplating, thinkin’ about thinkin’…” some of my favourite lyrics from Robbie Williams song, Come Undone! (Warning: Disturbing Clip!!!!)

Admiring:  The wonderful way the New Zealand Community said goodbye to the Legend that was Jonah Lomu.

Sorting:  Through my cupboards and giving to charity those things that others could put to better use than me.

Getting:  Excited about my trip home to my Mum’s in New Zealand for Christmas.  Leave in 12 days!!

Bookmarking:  Small garden shed adverts from Bunnings and sending them to my Boys!!

Coveting:  Not much really – feeling very contented at the moment.

Disliking:  The Brisbane heat and especially the humidity.  Chaffing and sweating are not my friends.

Opening: A cold bottle of New Zealand Sav Blanc on this hot Brisbane arvo.

Giggling:  At everything Jimmy Fallon does!  Love him so much.

Feeling:  Blessed to have caring friends and family, who encourage me to take risks with my life.  But, also, give me a safe place to land if things go wrong.

Snacking:  On fresh, raw, green beans and MANGOES!!!!!

Helping:  To support local business by shopping at Millie Jones – my favourite gift shop in the world!

Hearing:  The sound of the birds, as I spend some time outside in my garden, watering.

There’s mine done. Have a go at your own – it can be very revealing.

Here’s a blank one if you want to.

Making :
Cooking :
Drinking :
Reading:
Wanting:
Looking:
Playing:
Deciding:
Wishing:
Enjoying:
Waiting:
Liking:
Wondering:
Loving:
Pondering:
Considering:
Buying:
Watching:
Hoping:
Marvelling:
Cringing:
Needing:
Questioning:
Smelling:
Wearing:
Following:
Noticing:
Knowing:
Thinking:
Admiring:
Sorting:
Getting:
Bookmarking:
Coveting:
Disliking:
Opening:
Giggling:
Feeling:
Snacking:
Helping:
Hearing:

From Pip at Meet Me At Mikes

 

Weekend Alone!

BerlinBoy is back from Germany for 7 weeks holiday.  It’s been a mad few days of jetlag, heat & humidity, family  of 4 fun and everybody getting used to each other again!  Well, it has been almost 4 years!  Boys, boys, boys!  When did they all turn into men?  My constant thought, when they are together is – Something is going to get broken!!  They are all so big and my little unit is so small!  So far so good.

This weekend, they have taken themselves off to the Jungle Love  Festival, where BabyBoy and his band, In Void, will be playing.  The other 2 have gone as Roadies… They are camping – not something they are overly used to doing and storms are predicted – BUT they are not here and I have a glorious few days alone.

I am looking forward to a weekend of writing and thinking and planning.  This little blog will be going through some serious changes over the next few weeks.  A bit of a makeover for The Mandy Diaries, with the addition of its own Facebook page and email, as well as changes to the format of this page.  There will be regular posting days and maybe a weekly newsletter.

No need to worry … I will still be Me, writing about my perspective on my daily life.  I would hope that the changes will generate more conversations with you, my Readers, but if not – I will continue to write and publish my words because I think that is what I am – a Writer!

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Sneaky photo taken by my friend Marg, late one night and yes, we were at Macca’s! I had no idea these words were on the wall behind me – but so appropriate.  Thanks Marg xx

Can you detect a change in me?  Well, over the last few weeks I have been on a journey with my mental health practitioners.  And for the first time in a long time, I feel like I am winning.  More on that in another post after the relaunch in January.  I’m still travelling on that journey and I don’t want to jump the gun and go to early.  Needless to say, I feel excited and happy leading into Christmas.

This weekend, will also, see me doing some other of my favourite things.  Watching the Cricket Test between New Zealand and Australia; eating fresh Summer platters of food that I have prepared for myself, even though it is still Spring; decorating the house for Christmas – although this will be modified as I will not be home for Christmas but will travel to New Zealand to spend it with my extended family and friends; and wrapping gifts, as my Australian Christmas celebrations begin next week before I fly out in 2 weeks time.

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I hope your weekend will be a great one?

What will you be doing?

Christmas Thoughts.

I am struggling!

I so want to write about the wonderful anticipation and joy I am feeling about the approaching season of Christmas but I am just not there.  My thoughts are crowded by all the pain and hurt that the world keeps doing to each other and the distance from my extended family seems greater than ever this year.

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I am a Christmas fan.  I love everything about it.  I love the music.  I love the food.  I love the decorations.  I love the mail.  I love the gift buying and wrapping.  But most of all I love the gift giving.  Gift giving is my thing.  I find it so hard to describe the utter joy I get from finding exactly the right thing for the right person and then seeing the joy on the face of the recipient when they open the gift.  Don’t get me wrong – I love to receive gifts too but nothing gives me joy like giving!

Can you imagine, then, how suffering from extreme anxiety has played havoc with my Christmas preparations?  Gone is the ability to wander aimlessly around the shopping centres and malls, waiting for the right gift to jump out at me, shouting “Pick me! Pick me!”  Gone is the joy of last minute late night  shopping excursions for food.  No more do I have the “gay abandon” to play my Carols loud and long.

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I am plagued by what if’s and maybe’s and almost’s!  I may have found the right gift for the right person but it is yet to be wrapped – in case I find something better!  The CD may be in the player but it is not playing, in case I offend my neighbours.  My fridge is full of homemade goodies but what if they are not tasty enough to share?  Alternatively, some gifts have not yet been bought because the drive to the shop seems too hard.  Or posting the cards and parcels will probably be to late now – so why bother at all?  And church – where do I begin?

All my life, Christmas has stemmed from my belief that Jesus is the reason for the season!  I know that the babe in a manger  and the love freely given that day is and should be the focus.  But when your concentration is so shot to pieces that you have trouble walking the 100 metres down the drive to get your mail from your letterbox – it is sometimes too hard to get to church and sing his praises.  It doesn’t mean I love Him any less!

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So, as I stand in my almost completely, decorated home, next to my almost completely trimmed Christmas tree, with many gifts waiting to be wrapped and some still waiting to be bought.  I try to focus on the things I have completed and not that my house needs a clean or Mt Washmore is once again threatening to have a landslide or my yard is not a pretty sight!  I try to celebrate my have done’s not my still to do’s!

And if I do make it to church during the Christmas season, try not to think poorly of those Christmas & Easter worshippers!  Stop for a moment and consider what it may have taken for them to actually get there! And if you do receive a gift from me this year – know what it has taken to get it for you.  You are one of my special ones that have forced me out of my safe place – to take the risk because I think you are worth it!

Christmas is about how God Gave

Kind of like how God sent that tiny babe at Christmas.

Grief and the Holidays.

When you have been married to a Preacher Man, no matter how many years ago, when he dies, your memories good and bad will always be tied to those special Christian festivals.

I love the holiday celebrations.  They have always been my thing.  It started as a child for me, when my hard-working parents couldn’t afford many extras during the year but at birthdays and Christmas and Easter we were spoilt with gifts and food and church festivals. Don’t get me wrong – we never went without anything on a day-to-day basis – but excess was often the go at holiday time!  Rituals were begun and followed. Like the yearly Christmas visit to  my Dad’s brother’s place, where my Aunty always had her tree decorated with lollipops!  Or the fact that Mum always included a religious gift with our Easter eggs.  I remember with delight a beautiful pink twinkley cross to wear around my neck and my Living Bible that was all the rage in the 1970’s.  Christmas was church and carols and Advent Dinners and beaches and new dresses for the Sunday School Nativity.

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Pohutukawa tree also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree.

I grew up in Auckland, New Zealand in a church with many European nationalities.  Each of those wonderful families brought a lot of their home culture to my Mandy Christmas tradition that was being moulded.  Candles were always important, as was music, food, and seasonal colours.  A real tree was much-loved and decorated with the symbols of God’s gift to us.  The Advent Wreath, that dripped candle wax on you, at Communion time, if you were not careful. And Carol singing will always begin in my mind with

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

and end with

Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

So it was not surprising to me, that I chose to get married during Advent to my Preacher Man.  The church was decorated with the previously mentioned Advent Wreath and there were pine fronds in the church flowers.  I was presented with a beautifully decorated rolling-pin to carry from a Swedish family, which I cherish to this day.

Swedish rolling pin given at my wedding.
Swedish rolling-pin given at my wedding.

And so my own family tradition began!  Adrian’s family were not much on tradition, so it took  few years to train my Preacher Man up on what was expected.  A real tree was found and decorated with love and family heirloom decorations.  If money was tight, as many presents as you could buy for a set amount must be bought and each item must be wrapped individually!  The Advent Dinner must be full of purple and candles and Carols.  Then as our Boys arrived, more traditions developed with decorations galore, many with a European touch and presents opened on Christmas Eve, after church, as a nod to both of our German heritage. The Boxing Day test match on TV was never missed.  Our family celebrated the Christian holidays with gusto – both Christmas and Easter.

Our presents all wrapped individually!
Our presents all wrapped individually!
Easter tree.
Easter tree.

They were our favourite ….. and then Adrian died …… on an Easter Monday!

How to go on?  Not only on a day by day basis but those special holidays that were all of a sudden raw and full of pain.  He would want us to celebrate.  After arriving in our marriage with little or no Christmas celebratory spirit, Adrian, in his last years questioned why the Christmas tree couldn’t stay up all year long!  He loved it!

I go through the motions of Advent – the season of anticipation and preparation for the coming of the Christ Child but also the coming of another wedding anniversary  – spent alone.  I buy and wrap each gift with love and thoughtfulness but when I sign the card from Mandy or Mum or Aunty Mandy and not Mandy & Adrian or Mum & Dad or Aunty Mandy & Uncle Adrian, there is always a lump in my throat and a sadness in my heart.  I decorate the tree using the old and much-loved family decorations, wishing it could stay up all year long.

Oldest Christmas decoration - once owned by my Grandparents and future cause of ownership dispute by the Boys in years to come. We only have one and they all want it!
Oldest Christmas decoration – once owned by my Grandparents and future cause of ownership dispute by the Boys in years to come. We only have one and they all want it!

The same occurs at Easter time where my heart is grateful for God’s sacrifice of his Son but empty at the loss we experienced at this time almost six years ago.  But my Preacher Man would want me to continue the traditions we forged as a family in the 30 years we spent together.  For our Boys and their future families and for those around me that help me through these times.  I try to continue making meaningful rituals that symbolize that life continues and we take our memories with us as we move on.

I am grateful for the reminders of God’s grace and love and the certainty of being reunited in eternity.  I can acknowledge the peace that passes all understanding but I give myself the permission to struggle through these wonderful celebratory days, with my heart brimming and my eyes glistening with love and loss.  And if I choose to be quiet and withdraw from life some days – that’s acceptable too!

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Christmas Remembrance candles for my Dad, Adrian & my dear friend Ross.