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!

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.

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?

Hidden Treasures!

I have been away.  I have had another trip to my Mother-in-law’s (MIL) to finalize her move to a nursing home, where she will spend the rest of her days.  It was  a requested trip that I was putting off as long as possible because I knew it was going to be hard – and it was!

I booked my flight and flew out within 48 hours of the phone call I received from the cousins who had been working for weeks without my input.  I owed them …. so I went, but I went with a dread within me!  I knew it would be all the things I dislike.  Flying, cold weather, no car, relying on others, meeting people I didn’t know very well, making decisions, packing, cleaning, no internet, being away from my support system …. I could go on and on!  But I went …. I’m good in a crisis – I told myself!!

The airport and the flight went well.  I love the check in online before you get there, as it frees my mind and gives me security.  Once again, seat 17F came in for me with a row to myself and I didn’t need to ask for a seatbelt extender.  Just before landing, I did something I usually don’t do – I used the toilet on the aircraft.  I don’t like aeroplane toilets as they make me feel claustrophobic and panicky.  But when the need arises, there is no alternative!  Before leaving the toilet, I checked everything was tucked in and straightened and clean. I returned to my seat and waited for landing and disembarking.  It wasn’t long before I was greeting my cousin by marriage, after a long walk through the airport to the baggage claim.  As my cousin got my bag, I suddenly felt something dangling behind me!  Yes, you guessed it!  I had walked off the plane, past the flight attendants, through a busy airport like this ….

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And so it began!!!  From then on, it went much as I expected.  There was plenty of this ….

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That eventually turned into this …..

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But what I didn’t expect were the hidden treasures I discovered.  Love letters dated 1945!  Baptismal remembrances dated 1918!  Garden plans from 1982, with every rose named!  Unsigned Secret Admirer letters to my husband!

And these gorgeous things from MIL’s younger days ….

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I, also, didn’t expect to find the wonderful, caring, uplifting relationships I experienced from my husband’s family, both in the city and on the farm where I stayed.  It wasn’t long before my tired mind and body were nourished with food and warmth and love and conversation and most especially laughter.  I was embraced into a family that I had never really known I had.  These people were mostly just names to me.  Yes, I may have stayed at their home once long ago and chatted on the phone for a few moments but to pick me up and to make me feel loved and cherished was something I had not been prepared for.  My mind and heart came back to Brisbane refreshed and full.  After hard days at my MIL’s Unit, I was lucky to be able to experience this ….

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And this ….

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And not to forget this ….

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How relieved I am to be able to leave my MIL in the Nursing Home, knowing that these caring family members will visit her and care for her when I am not able to be there.  They made so many sacrifices for me while I was with them, as they have done for my MIL over the years.  Yes, it was hard to leave her but I know she is cared for and happier than the last time I saw her – mostly because she had been visited by the hairdresser and had a cut and perm!  Not bad for nearly 97!

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My flight back to Brisbane gave me some stunning views of Moreton Island from the plane window. (As seen at the top of my post.)  This completed a most wonderful trip away, full of Hidden Treasures!

Some would say I am lucky – I choose to called it blessed.

Loving my kids! Loving myself!

Loving my kids is something that I have always found easy to do.  Liking them …. sometimes, not always so easy!

When my boys were little, although my heart was often breaking for them, I felt  like I could usually fix things for them when they were in need.

Not in a Christopher Pyne kind of way ….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hc9NRwp6fiI

Hungry?  Easy – bread was my go to filler. Although frozen poppas and frozen tubs of yoghurt took a lot longer to eat!!  Injured? Usually a hug, a kiss and sometimes a band-aid did the trick.  Tired?  A cuddle on the bed with a book was often enough.  Lonely?  I would sit on the floor for a play.  Sickness?  I was the one they wanted  and I could comfort and reassure them and get them the medical help they needed.  Of course with 3 boys, fights were a big deal.  They weren’t so hard either because I had one that was quite happy to go to his room and be alone – so the reverse was required of him.  He had to spend time out in the kitchen or wherever, with me!  And I had one that always wanted to be where the action was – so, of course, he was sent to his room for a while!  The littlest one was usually  left to continue playing!  Being 6 years younger had to have some perks!

As the years moved on, the needs were pretty much the same, with the addition of a few new ones.  Transport, school requirements, money, sporting disappointments, broken hearts were added.  But I still felt like I could help!

Now my boys are men!  I still feel like I can help when there is a need.  If they find themselves in the middle of a problem and they share it with me, I immediately want them close to me.  I want to give them that supportive hug.  That listening ear.  That nourishing hot meal.  That few extra dollars.  Those familiar things that I did when they were young.  I want to do the thing that will take the pain away from them and build them up with love and comfort.

So the question that I am posing to myself is …… Why don’t I do this to myself when I am in need?

The things that I do for my sons, are exactly what I need when I am feeling down.  I need to do the thing that will take the pain away from me and build myself up with love and comfort.  I need to be  kind to myself.  I need to eat nourishing food.  I need rest.  I need to listen to myself.  I need to give myself a hug.  But I find myself, thinking negative thoughts and eating crap (or not eating at all) and not sleeping and berating my attempts to move forward and isolating myself from everyone!

Recognising my needs and listening to them is the only way to love myself.  That doesn’t mean that the needs of others are to be pushed aside.  Never!  But if I know how to and can recognise when to, take care of myself, I am much better equipped to serve the needs of others.

Treat yourself

My Mother-In-Law ……

For the last 35 years, I have had the same mother-in-law (MIL).  I have been lucky with my MIL.  She loves me and my boys, constantly finding ways to help us out over the years with baking, cooking, sewing, knitting, praying and the “don’t tell Dad but here’s some $$$ just incase you need it” money gifts!  She has always been positive about our marriage and family, although in the beginning she must have wondered what on earth her only son had brought home!

I entered her family like a freight train.  Head on, whistles blasting.  She didn’t get to meet me until we were engaged and well on our way to being married.  My husband and I were living in New Zealand at the time of meeting, his family were in Australia.  When that first meeting took place, it was a harrowing experience for both of us.  You see – the airline had lost my luggage and I had been in the same clothes for two days and one night while we drove from Melbourne to the country town an hour out of Adelaide where they lived.  I know I was stinky and crumpled and  unsure of myself, when I stepped out of the car to meet this very stylish, immaculately made-up, perfectly permed lady that was to become my MIL!  We sat down to tea (best china) and cakes (homemade of course) and nothing that I was experiencing made a bit of sense when I looked at my handsome, sloppy, daggy, no dress sense, sport obsessed fiancé.

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Years later, when talking about our first meeting – MIL has often said that she was scared of me and then quickly realised that she would have to lower her expectations for her son, because obviously he loved me and had chosen me!!  Every now and then she would come out with classic comments like this – with absolutely no understanding of what she had just said and how it might affect the person she was talking about.  I absolutely, love this about her …. once I understood that she did not have a mean bone in her body.

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Over the years, it became obvious to MIL that I didn’t really have a domestic bent and so preserved fruit & jam that was so sweet I couldn’t eat it, made its way to Queensland, where we were now living.  Along with curtains for our house; machine knitted jumpers by the dozen; pages of hand written names from the local newspaper – for when the babies started coming; home-made honey biscuits at Christmas; and then there were the months long driving visits to stay with us ….. with no going home date!  I had never experienced anything like this.  Not that my Mum wasn’t a happy homemaker – she was. But this was on a whole different level!!

I had some advantages – MIL could bake up a storm but I could cook her out of the kitchen.  And I made amazing babies!  Winning!  We each had our gifts and we learned to accept the other’s ways and our love and respect for each other grew strong.

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Time has marched on.  We have both had  too much loss in our lives.   MIL is now aged 96 years old and has been through the deaths of her husband, step-daughter, all of her brothers & sisters and of course her much-loved son – my husband, Adrian.  Too much sadness for a mother – they aren’t supposed to bury their children.  She is an amazingly strong and determined woman.

MIL still chooses to live alone, in a retirement village, in the same country town where I first met her.  She manages her own money and only stopped driving at 90.  She has help with showering & house cleaning but still insists on cooking, doing her own washing & many other things that I think she should not be doing!  She is being careful, she says but has now had 4 or 5 falls in the last 4 months.  She won’t press her emergency button when she has a fall because she would rather wait until her next booked doctor’s appointment to be checked out!  This worries me but she tells me not to.  She only tells me she has fallen, weeks after the event – so she won’t be a worry to me!!!  She cut her toe last week when cutting her toenails, but can’t see that she needs a podiatrist to do it!  She was silly and would have to take more care, she says.

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She loves me and my boys and always will. I live too far away to visit often but our phone calls are filled with love & laughter & pride in her Grandsons. I’m learning to let go and let God.  Soon, she won’t be able to make those phone calls anymore and we will just have the precious memories of the love she gives us.

And of course the memory of when she told us that she had to have a small medical procedure on her head because it had fossilised!!!  We are sure she meant calcified but will forevermore enjoy sharing about MIL’s fossilised head!